Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Rabidsenses

Total Reviews: 3

L'Immensité by Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton began a push between 2016 and 2019 towards a collection of fragrances scaled to fit the niche mould and to announce a strongarmed re-entry for those already beholden to the house as well as the well-moneyed looky-loos drawn to anything marketed as upscale. L’Immensite arrives alongside the class of 2018 (Nouveau Monde, Au Hasard, Orage, Ombre Nomad, and Sur la Route), each pointed in a masculine direction.

To be fair, I arrived at the Louis Vuitton boutique with the initial intention to procure a sample of Afternoon Swim (2019). While discussing the fragrance line with the SA its bright and limpid cobalt blue bottle really leapt out from the backdrop; in fact, amongst the beige-bedecked shelves of various leather, canvas and upper echelon ready-to-wear refinement this particular bottle was a uniquely happy expression against the more staid LV collection. But, alas, having been a popular scent this Summer, and with all of their samples gone, the SA encouraged me to take a sample of L’Immensité (2018) which she described as very popular amongst their male clients and, with their program in place that allows bottle refills at a $100 discount for devoted returnees, it was already the most commonly sought-after at this boutique since its release almost two years earlier. I was surprised to learn this because I heard that Orage and Sur la Route were more popular.

In much the same way that Creed prior to Aventus (2010) might arguably be known to represent the high-brow nouveau riche refinement of previously established scent profiles from other houses, the same might be said of LV in this case. In fact, it must be stated because others will continue to point this out elsewhere. Deservedly so. More on that in a moment.

Although one might be suspect of such a high-profile brand’s sense of originality L’Immensité is nevertheless a gorgeous, well-wrought structure that it cannot be denied. This Jacques Cavallier rendering is luxurious and imminently wearable for many occasions, from casual to more formal. As per the brand mythos there is warranted sophistication about it that cannot be denied. It feels good wearing this, though I wonder if something approaching $300 for a bottle could ever really be warranted, and here again we return to the subject of originality in the context of value . . . perhaps, just perhaps, if one loves this enough then the $100 savings for a refill at an official LV boutique might work, but this will only be when an individual has found something worthy of recycling through their collection. I believe for some people it is. Undoubtedly. Then again, for others who need not be sold any further on niche prestige – let alone their own subscriptions to LV itself as both a brand and lifestyle – this will be less of philosophical jump. And for those with socio-economic clout there will be no mental exercise to justify the acquisition. Lucky them!

Regarding the question of originality as viewed in the context of the ineluctable scent profile? Yes, those possessing a much stronger grasp of the history of perfumery than myself can effortlessly list inspirations for L’Immensité. Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973), a slight reference to Azzaro Pour Homme (1976) but definitely without the leather and oakmoss, and some combination of a few Acqua di Giô editions by Giorgio Armani. And damn straight that list could include something more modern such as Bleu de Chanel (2010) and Dior Sauvage (2015) because of the flirtations with freshy + Ambroxan. Maybe this is the elite version of Sauvage? I dunno. I don’t really want to go there. From my limited vantage point this appears more of a fresh reference to the 1990s where, to be honest, where they were then youthful there now exists a mid-career demographic for whom this naturally might appeal and, moreover, have arrived at that stage in life where they could splurge for this, amongst other class-conscious markers of their bourgeois dynastic pretensions.

From the initial blast there is excitement and something that sparkles. Non-existent is that alcohol false start that you need to wait for before things click. From the outset L’Immensité is present and strong. The opening feels fresh and fruity, the ginger and grapefruit feel real, boisterous and unimagined by some synthetic Frankensteining. Someone I know who shares my love of the scent charms from Hermès loves Twilly d’Hermès (2017) whose ginger profile I’ve never been able to wrap my head around. I’m not normally of an appreciative nose for ginger outside of the medicinal and Thai cuisine. What we are offered here is a “pickled ginger” but I can assure you that it doesn’t swerve towards something sour or too pungent; this is controlled and balanced with the juicy grapefruit that (mostly) disavows any bitter traces, as well as a tart bergamot that I detect that adds to the obligatory masculine freshness. These top notes (ginger, juicy grapefruit, citrus) are the most exciting and memorable. The opening is generous and invigorating. Indeed, hold the opening dear, for it’s exciting and remains for a while. A dry none-too-sour freshness and a water note help to create something reminiscent of sporty and a little aquatic. This fragrance is not a rush towards the base and, ultimately, the finish line. There is Ambroxan, yes, but unlike Sauvage (2015) this is no Ambroxan bomb crater that envelops everything in place and ultimately directs this journey. It’s a more subtle saucer. The labdanum encourages a smooth undertone that warms the other ingredients like rocks on a windy bank in the Mediterranean sun. Only slightly musky. Something else that is dry and spicy holds itself close to the rocks and perhaps that is the sage and rosemary, though the blending of this is so expertly done that my nose fails to detect those individual notes. And finally the shorter leash on the Ambroxan and the lovely laddanum allow the amber to fulfill one of the most qualified and ideal amber balancing effects I’ve witnessed in a long time. While the amber and labdanum are pushed down more, the constant hover of ginger all work together to keep it warm – this ensures a base of resinous wood and all the assurances of a masculine countenance. Nothing full sporty, nothing full aquatic. Sillage is good and longevity comes in at a respectable 5-6 hours on my skin.

L’Immensité opens beautifully. Carries and asserts itself beautifully. Dries down beautifully. An image for this scent is walking on a dry hot day along a rocky path metres above the sea. The rocks have been bathed white in the unrelenting sun for a millennia and there is a low foliage that has managed to survive there. The wind bores through the rocky face of this hill and carries with it a delightfully warm, spicy accord. The sunny sparkle of the water in the distance below brings an inviting zest to the equation. Yes, this feels Mediterranean but not the bright citrus along its shores like a Neroli Portofino (2007). Rather, the location here is a dry landscape above its water, but whose placement I couldn’t guess. Nothing is fleeting, everything feels timeless. Noble invigoration.

Sure, a wee bit of a crowd pleaser.

Fresh, aromatic, spicy, decidedly masculine with a heritage scent profile deserving of a reboot from any house. There is a substantial quality to L’Immensité. But now it’s time to pay the piper and the question of price/value invariably persists. Not unlike Creed who arguably prior to Aventus, issued elite renditions of seminal (and current!) works, LV is following the same playbook here. Is this a bad thing? – I don’t know. But when critical crunch time arrives it must be stated that any worthy criticism should surely be amortized across other brands who have done the same (cough, cough . . . Parfums de Marly and sometimes Frederic Malle). Let us be fair.

I laboured quite a bit with rating this and knew what I was up against. Yes, it would be so easy to be utterly dismissive from an antiquated fraghead perspective and thusly accord it a negative rating. After all, a grasp of perfume heritage is itself noble and welcomed, as I have respectfully learned in all of my readings on Basenotes. Lacking originality, borrowing historically under the assumption that some high-quality note edits would justifiably lift this to respectability, and vaulting this into upper echelon niche pricing, all are enough credible points from the “I object!” side. But something here wouldn’t be fair, if not even somewhat disingenuous, for this exercise could only be mounted with eyes wide shut. I might even say it could be a kneejerk reaction from the fraghead hostile-ites. In this light this would be patently unfair. Regardless this is a conundrum and, as such, perhaps a neutral rating is more reliable. There will be a struggle with this one and for that I applaud the honesty.

Because this is my review and I am not beholden to the measure of expectations or trials of others. I can give my take: To me L’Immensité is undeniably a luxurious – albeit unoriginal – fragrance that deserves to be considered alongside its current and historical specimens of this scent profile. Yet it clearly does not just couple together these previously established profiles with an inherently insane price tag; instead the quality of the ingredients is undeniably high and the experience noteworthy. This is a beautifully-blended concoction that keeps inviting your nose to your forearm time and again throughout the day to appreciate said ingredients. If anything, this is a respectable shout-out to an established heritage and nothing about the manner in which it is presented or marketed suggests that LV and Jacques Cavallier were trying to mislead us. It can be embraced for quality’s sake on an already established platform, not unlike any number of ready-made commodities who shift the everyman into a lap of luxury. One could say this is analogous to a mid-range Mercedes-Benz C-Class (C300, for example) prior to the AMG performance arm of the company preying upon it for dizzying levels of performance and luxury upgrades, hence the AMG C63 S saloon. In that regard, the AMG division made its name by taking the underpinnings in order to produce something that invited more luxurious exterior and interior appointments, in addition to a notable crank in horsepower. If that is too much hyperbole then perhaps a Toyota pumpkin becoming a Lexus lion is easier on the conscience.

In the end I give this one a neutral rating and this is not due to matters of originality, it is not due to matters of what has been borrowed or what is deemed generic, and it is certainly not a reactionist discord with the perceived haughtiness of the LV house. Rather, in the end it MUST come down to, yes, the insane price in this consideration. Where I live it costs $290. Were it priced at, say, $180 I might view the 60% surcharge for the otherwise excellent ingredients as worth it when compared to similar fragrances. However, here’s the rub: For those individuals who sample and love I’Immensite to the point it might eventually warrant a second bottle, then suddenly this approaches a positive rating. Why? – because at a stated refill cost of $190 this then falls into the parameter I imagined above for a positive rating. Regardless, I eagerly suggest to the curious to kindly request a sample of l’Immensite and decide for yourself what might lie ahead for you. In conclusion, try it in case this runs with the classic steeds for you. Just start somewhere. Decant worthy at least.

Price be damned but it’s damned good.

15th August, 2019

Sundazed by Byredo

Allow me to confess that I really enjoy my Neroli concoctions as well as musk concoctions, from clean to near debaucherous. As to the former this means I have really enjoyed much of Jean Claude Ellena’s canon as much as the numerous Italian interpretations of citrus-infused wonders – both those that are uplifting and those that are more staid when I wear my gentleman pants – that seem to evoke walks along the Mediterranean between refreshments on hot days.

Regarding Byredo’s Sundazed (2019), after reading the ingredient listing and partaking in a short experience at the Byredo counter I wondered if this would be tantamount to Jean-Claude Ellena having a sugar rush and falling into a coma?

Still intrigued I took some samples with me to try and figure this out.

Oh wow, upon application this one is immediately evocative. More accurately, it was memory-inducing from the opening but this was all quite inadvertent as I had not set out to imagine what this scent was. I was attempting to be pragmatic in noting this. From 0-60 upon application I was met with a loud cotton candy note (I want to say “cotton candy accord,” only because that sounds delightfully funny!). Memories came flooding back to me. From the knock-knock on my mind’s door and thereupon opening it I see myself at a local fairground smelling the pungent sugary sweets and their steamy aromas that crept through the hot air and invaded the already excited children all around me. Wow, that is indeed cotton candy to start this journey. How is this not in the top notes? More to come, I am certain.

Within minutes the mandarin joins in and pushes this towards something more orange creamsical, though it never quite entirely goes there as something floral is detected in the background. I am already aghast as the super sweet opening has taken me out of my normal comfort zone, and I am a little confused by how my usual love of orange-led scents has been somewhat pillaged by the cotton candy. But of course we have the answer: this is mandarin, something that is intendedly prescribed here to maintain the sweetness content. Make no mistake, this is more sugar than ‘sweet’ in the world of fragrance.

(Note: for reference sake this is called “candy floss” – where I come from we just call it cotton candy).

My initial reaction was suspect, for I feared we’d have no lift off. Instead I worried that Sundazed was just a sweet orange creamsical-inspired skirmish across the runway with the initial candied heat of orange usurping our attention until we sputter out and fail to take to the skies after all.

I am happy to report that I was wrong. Very wrong.

After the mandarin orange and cotton candy fireworks I can detect the lemon, although it was always sorta there. The dry lemon assumes a more nominal position and this, combined with a rising Jasmine note, tempers and then controls this blast of hot sugary air from Candy Mountain. When it comes the change in tempo is significant. With that in mind, I hope I haven’t lost anyone yet with the overly descriptive but accurate sugary opening because change is afoot – stick around! For within 20-30 minutes the mandarin plunge is replaced by a perfectly balanced universe between a soapy neroli and jasmine. The opening mandarin and cotton candy carousel is slowed down and harnessed, thus succeeding in directing this fragrance onto a more harmonious plane of floral, bitter orange and a clean white musk. Despite a preview of the notes did not see that coming in the manner in which it played out.

The once seemingly impenetrable, hazy, ozonic cloud of cotton candy has now settled alongside or just below our heart and we are left with the observation that we are, in actuality, dealing with a well-thought out journey utilizing some high-quality ingredients. The neroli and jasmine are outstanding, and we are led back to a strong reminder that Byredo is a quality niche house. It seems they know what they are doing in conducting this voyage. This is floral, soapy neroli in a good way. The lush jasmine would seem to be captured just at that moment when the flowers fall (you know if you’ve had jasmine plants). And what makes this so intriguing is that I keep getting these continuous, though more diluted and gentle, wafts of cotton candy that appear amongst the bouquet. A clean, white musk holds this in place without making it too heavy. As a fan of many varieties of musk (clean, dirty, sensual, soapy, etc.) this one does not take over too soon and forces the other ingredients to settle down. By the 1-hour mark the mandarin is gone (or contained) because there really isn’t room or reason for it at this point. By the 2-hour mark this has settled into a happy skin scent. Where once it was sharp, sweet and slightly bitter we move into a dry down that clean, warm and evidently flavoured by the mid-afternoon sun. No woods, not really earthy, possibly a little green with a slightly sweet breeze. Sundazed is really the definition of a non-linear experience.

I’m a little confused by this fragrance. But even more so I am intrigued. (1) On a personal level, going in I knew that this was slightly outside my usual charts that capture my attention, so I’m surprised. Did I just discover that I like a little more floral with my de facto love of neroli? Or perhaps I’m discovering that, in fact, what I’m witnessing is my own (admittedly new) curiosity about florals in general, particularly without woods to ease it? While I have certainly sampled floralist attributes in fragrances leaning that way I almost never appreciate them enough to request/accept a sample, much less make a full bottle acquisition. (2) On the other hand, I am a little confused due to the way this was described at the Byredo counter as it belies the fact that this is, in essence, a dominant floral-neroli-citrus composition. Yes, it’s held aloft by a clean white musk and made more intriguing by natural (mandarin) and candied (cotton candy) sweet notes. But the Byredo consultants insisted on the primacy of the sweet accords. I’m not complaining because ultimately intrigue got the best of me and that is why I am here now. Where originally it felt as something composed for a young and upwardly mobile urbanite in some noted cultural industry to recapture memories on carefree Summer days, the reality is that the progression of Sundazed makes it all that plus an unexpectedly sophisticated experience.

For my skin sillage is average (about 3-4 hours) and projection is relatively low. It’s a sweet, short projection (maybe 1-2 hours) and thus it might be best advised to spray it on your clothes also. It’s worth it.

This is Summer. Not a Summer citrus with sel de mer along a natural coastline, not a fresh and raw vetiver while enjoying a spritzer on the piazza, and it’s certainly not an ozonic aquatic of the virile XY chromosome set. This is a Summer scent reminding us of ice cream after swimming lessons at the pool. It’s Summer braking for lemonade while our parents grabbed espressos on our vacation. It’s a Summer of a sort of uplifting yet ethereal memory. But this is not a child’s Summer (forgive my own references) as the evolution of Sundazed became something quite unexpected, very intriguing, inviting, highly- wearable, and, yes, sophisticated. Byredo’s alignment with memory is an undeniable part of this experience.

This is an enjoyable, very happy scent. To those who heard it was sweet? – well, 80% of that rumour is just the initial cotton candy-mandarin opening. The more I think about it the more I believe this is an intelligent design that ensures that this unique sweetness settles down nicely into the mid-frame where it might otherwise disappear. It thus allows the cotton candy to hold a place just below what this fragrance really is . . . a delightful soapy floral-neroli experience that is light and highly-wearable for casual situations and (perhaps) work in warm weather. And yet there is something that is also pointedly sentimental about Sundazed; it truly evokes hot Summer afternoons and the immobile laziness of it all. It feels worry-free, light, uplifting and free from the humdrum aquatic and amped-up citrus interpretations we usually find for Summer. In fact, I might even say that Sundazed was less made for Summer as instead it was Summer that made Sundazed.

And that leads me to conclude that it was aptly named. That’s my day in the sun.
(UPDATE: I wore this for the entirety of the August long weekend, attending various social events and music parties. I carried an atomizer to reapply at various times throughout the day in all that sunshine, as well as evening refreshes. I adored being with this scent. And friends and strangers kept commenting on it, equally men and women. In fact, once early evening came I applied some on my friends and they were absolutely taken with the progression of notes much the same way they were with the music. So much so that a few stated they would be acquiring it for themselves, no matter the lofty cost. To be sure, it’s seasonal time is limited - it’s a Summer scent alluding to our past Summer glories in those hot days/evenings - but this one is a resounding success!!)

29th July, 2019 (last edited: 06th August, 2019)

Replica Whispers in the Library by Martin Margiela

Unexpectedly, my first-ever review for Basenotes will be for Replica Whispers in the Library (2019) by Martin Margiela. I say “unexpectedly” as vanilla fragrances are often off my radar, or they are at most allowed to occupy a satellite relation found somewhere in the dry down of my preferred scents. At the same time, however, this is also interesting because as a teenager who once wished to find a desirable vanilla fragrance to somehow find a casual place alongside my testosterone-driven collection of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mashups of the 1990s and early 2000s, in addition to my post-gym dialups of sporty hesperidiums, I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the selections. Those selections were limited to my budget, so the then bridling take-off of niche houses didn’t
fit the bill. Eventually university found me in an environment (and a time) when fragrances were viewed with suspicion due to milquetoast social conventions, and quite honestly the cost of academia precluded me from new acquisitions amongst my newfound priorities. Funnily enough, despite limited resources I would experiment with a certain cheap and rather unremarkable vanilla oil from The Body Shop . . . thick, sweet, rich, unnuanced and somewhat directionless, not unlike my life’s plan in those days.

Upon examining the Maison Margiela collection at a local department store devoted to the house’s complete set of Replica fragrances I was greeted by an excellent mediator. I arrived, prepared and generally well-read - as Jane Austen would describe, “a man of information” - and was delightfully surprised by the knowledgeable reception. Truth be known, this level of commitment feels rare to me and is something seriously lacking in the retail side of fragrance (lest you visit a somewhat a boutique as opposed to those teeming with a bazaar-esque slew of choices). Otherwise, those fragrance lovers on a more discerning journey normally take refuge in the quality found in the contributions at Basenotes and other online destinations that enhance the hobby. I must confess that I did not arrive bent on trying the subject of this review; rather I arrived with a predilection towards sampling By the Fireplace (2015), Jazz Club (2013), and At the Barber’s (2014) due to the online buzz. Each of these are intriguing concoctions with a time and purpose, and I hope to sometime divulge more about them. I had initially zeroed in on At the Barber’s as I am eternally striving to find that clean feel, whether it be a lavender-laden fougère or a white laundry musk. Perhaps something even akin to one of my all-time favourites, Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne (2000 and 2014 reissue).

But what surprisingly captured me on that warm and sunny early Summer afternoon was Whispers in the Library (2019). Amongst the handwash-shaped capsules this one both surprised me and won me over as a sample to explore further.

Listen, I know there already exists an encyclopaedic stack of time-honoured and contemporary hip(ster)-to-the-moment vanilla fragrances found in both market squares and in quiet niche houses. Tobacco and/or amber and/or woody notes are readily laced through a plethora of vanilla inspirations that are already so encompassing that it can be intimidating to find your juice. I get that. But not unlike the old adage that searching for love often results in not finding it, so too is it true that being unmindful of love is often the condition wherein it finds you. This was certainly the case with my long-forgotten cause to have a suitable vanilla fragrance in my collection.

So how does Whispers in the Library make its case?

Not a sludge vanilla confection. Not a glazed gourmand. Not a saccharine delight. Not an overt sexual impulse. Not a steamy moment where your inamorata’s lips press to your neck at the discotheque. This one seems indifferent to those realms. On the olfactory side you won’t find your Montale Vanilla Cake (2018) and eat it too. It exists indifferent to the cloying found in similar Thierry Mugler campaigns seemingly given to regal patisserie settings of Versailles sweets, their exteriors a glazed talisman forged by Bourban vanilla simmering with butter and sugar in the saucier . . . and, of course, the cigar that chases dessert. And on the experiential trajectory nor have you a JPG Le Male (1995) beasting for evening affection and traces of vanilla found on the post-coital bedsheets.

It goes on without a boozy opening customary to its kin. Or at least comparatively not so boozy. This is a clean, somewhat unsweetened vanilla suspended and kept aloft by a black pepper accord. From the inoffensive opening the pepper holds it in sway and seems to open the vanilla up to a drier, less malty residue form of itself. Indeed, the pepper lifts it and the cedarwood holds it in place. About 1-2 hours in there is something else I detect: Is there something almost floral far in the background? Or is this just one of the chemical properties of the cedar at this stage?

Throughout the journey one is reminded that there is a coolness to this vanilla, or at least something surprisingly on the cool side of warm. In the middle stages the cedarwood enters stage right and begins its supporting role. The lead settles down into something quiet and dusty, with just a little vigour too. A powder softens from somewhere behind the curtain. This is where Whispers in the Library averts your attention to the proclaimed imagery. Vanilla, paper and waxed wood . . . there it is! Either I consciously fell for the “time and place” aspect of the Replica line or there is an artistic accuracy at play.

Despite its decidedly short list of ingredients this is not an entirely linear journey, for there is a soft transformation somewhere in this episode. And this is where there is a gentle complexity where one looks for it in this library. Where once this professorial, soft tweed jacket and v-neck sweater-bedecked gentleman was muted by his time-honoured laser focus on the livre at hand, now he appears like a young savant with a crisp white t-shirt and a fitted, soft, unstructured merino cardigan-style jacket, and a pair of dark rinse jeans and Jack Purcell’s crossed over his knee. He continuously looks up and out the window, his eagerness, curiosity and ambition not quite yet conditioned. He casually yet elegantly exists between two worlds. The tone of this attraction is something sapiosexual.

I cannot place a finger on it but the vanilla itself is of a premium quality. A different type of vanilla. One would assume this was the first ingredient selected in this minimalist recipe, the pepper tailored it and the woods supported the tasteful image of the bibliophile in the library. There is a notable discretion about this one, something modern yet conservative in a manner not often applied to vanilla fragrances. There’s nothing beasting here. One is held in a dry repose which deems its raison d’etre an elevation of a meditative awareness. Although Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille (2003) shares some similar perceptive characteristics (waxed, woody paper) I find this one to be more interesting. On a personal note if the Serge Lutens offering possessed a smoky note then it would have more of what I was looking for, I suppose(?) . . . but then it would shift away from its feminine side. And, in fairness, any smoke in Margiela’s mélange would strut in a different direction altogether.

The full experience came on a Sunday morning. My plan was to begin the day (how convenient!) by reading deeper and further into my Marcus Aurelius. Yet, with the inspiration behind Whispers in the Library in my mind, I allowed myself to feel carried away to the leather-encased stacks found in my favourite library/study pod at my old alma mater. I suppose this is as close as I would get to my “ancestral library,” to take from the marketing spiel. I allowed the designer’s aims for this fragrance to make me imagine the scenario further: Walking beneath the Tudor Revival tower above the entrance way, along the hall and down the steps into the nearly hidden library. There, with my cahier and books spread across a desk shared by generations before me, I succumb to the the quietude found in that boutique library. I pause and look up from my reading to gaze through the Jacobethan stone window onto the courtyard outside with covered perimeter walkways upheld by tiny columns, and the organ music wafting from the upstairs college chapel where talented students from the nearby conservatory would - albeit tastefully - play to their heart’s delight so long as the old vestiges were not unsettled. I cherish the fact that my mind found this sacred memory, so I mentioned it here.

My day continued with a long walk along the bay with a steady wind coming onto the pathway across the water. Nothing was whisked away. I kept smelling Whispers on the Library wafting in and out throughout the day. I was surprised and delighted at its staying power, though the vanilla accord had sweetened somewhat without its players whose roles had rescinded during the latter dry down. The vanilla, like this point in my day, was less quiet about its starring role on this stage. Acquaintances who I met for coffee commented on it, one even politely requested to lean in closer to glean a more comprehensive experience. This one is appreciated.

A tasteful, elegant little evocative experience. Easy to wear and none so brash. Sure, a wee bit sapiosexual . . . why not?

After repeated events with it I can say that longevity is decent at 7-9 hours. Sillage is moderate and restrained, much like the bibliophile in your life, keeping to himself but quietly exuberant as he turns the pages.

25th June, 2019 (last edited: 18th October, 2019)
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