Citrus & Wood by Yardley (2011)



"Poor man's Terre d'Hermès" indeed, but given the price, that's definitely a plus. And it's not the only one, actually. Citrus & Wood is definitely similar to Ellena's bestseller to many extents, as it is basically the exact same "airy", hyper-clean, very contemporary Iso-E infused woody blend with a zesty, classic eau de cologne-inspired top accord of citrus notes. But it has a couple of unexpected twists that make it quite worthy the purchase regardless of whether you like and/or Terre already.

First, Citrus & Wood is even cleaner and crisper than Terre d'Hermès, slightly more soapy and floral, a bit spicier at heart, and somehow overall less syntethic as well. I've tested it extensively in the past few days and that's probably the feature I enjoyed the most - the fact that it smells very laid-back, very natural even if it obviously isn't, not cloying and not "plastic" at all as one may expect. The citrus notes do smell like proper citrus, properly fading in a couple of minutes as proper citrus notes do, and the woody notes do smell like realistic, freshly cut, sharp wood (Ikea stuff, don't expect any raw- dirty smokiness). It's obviously that ubiquitous industrial cedar-pencil aromachemical again, but Yardley's staff did a great job in infusing some life in it and making it smell smoother, softer, less dry and less blatantly artificial as many others did. Partially thanks to the use of the floral tones and partially to the quality top citrus accord, it all smells very uplifting, fresh, vibrant and classy.

Shortly this is a great clean citrus-woody scent which can be perfect basically anythine and anywhere, more than safe and greatly inoffensive but classy and pleasant. A great alternative to Terre d'Hermès (and similar scents) with a smoother, lighter and cleaner presence. The projection is decent and the persistence is a bit short - as you'd fairly expect with this type of notes, but given the cheap price and the fantastic top notes, it's a pleasure to reapply.

7/10

Patrick by Fragrances of Ireland (1999)



Out of the dozens of classic "clean" fougères I tried over the years, Patrick is - to this day - the absolute winner of the category for me. Others are more complex, more refined or more praised, but when it comes to comfort, I think this is the ultimate grail. It's subjective, I know, but it works for me. As other reviewers said, the structure of Patrick is fairly simple, but not simplistic; it's basically a soapy fern scent, so there's a ton of sparkling crisp greenness laced with a fresh breeze of soap, all supported by a sort of nondescript mossy-earthy feel. It smells natural (sort of), deep enough to let you appreciate the notes, yet not too powerful - actually the contrary, this is a rather distinguished and discreet fragrance (contrary to many vintage examples of this same category, which may contain thicker and more natural ingredients, but mostly smelling way too rougher and bolder than Patrick).

Think of being on a fall holiday in the mountains and spending a day out in the woods, then coming home, having a relaxing bath and going out again for a quick stroll before dinner. That's Patrick, that calm, sunset-like feel of balsamic cleanliness, the artificial soapy notes blending with the smell of earth, leaves and cold branches. I know that hundreds of scents feature these notes, and yet I never found such a perfect balance of vibrancy and quiet haziness, creating a feel of deep comfort I basically never experienced with any other fragrance. Out of the many masterpieces I know and the few fragrances I "love" more than this, to this day Patrick is the only scent I can wear for several days in a row without getting tired of it. It's not particularly creative, doesn't scream "art" or utter quality, but it feels "home" in the purest and most irresistible way. Best "cheapo" ever made for me.

8,5/10

Pentachord Verdant by Andy Tauer (2011)



Nose: Andy Tauer

Pentachord Verdant shares the same issue I personally detect in many fragrances by Andy Tauer. They’re intellectually very fascinating and thrilling, they’re exceedingly evocative and realistic, they succeed very well in keeping a decided, peculiar sort of artificial vein well combined with a truthful organic nature; but they don’t smell like something I would wear. Ever. Or that I think anyone would want to wear. Tauer hasn’t admittedly a formal training, and while that is surely a plus when it comes to creative freedom and composing “out of the box”, it sometimes turns into a disadvantage for him. And that is the case for Pentachord Verdant in my opinion.

Pentachord Verdant is basically a tremendously intriguing “smell” which brilliantly evokes the smell of damp grass, wet soil, freshly-cut branches, all with a sort of dark, cold, sharp feel, brilliantly combined with an artificial sort of quite heavy oily-gasoline greyish note that smells basically like someone pouring fuel on grass – You and Your Lawnmower, a Romance by Andy Tauer. As usually with most of Tauer's fragrances, the smell is quite sharp and almost harsh at first, stuffed with cold salty ambroxan and a thin, cutting layer of nondescript metallic spices giving the natural side of the fragrance that peculiar “artificial trim” which characterizes many scents by this nose. I don’t get any tobacco actually, to me it’s all a cascade of nose-tingling spicy sharp greenness seasoned with steamy gasoline. The evolution is just more about the volume decreasing, but I detect no particular transitions or movements – just the same identical thing losing strength and projection as hours pass (but that’s fine, and it actually gets almost pleasant after a while).

And, well... you may guess my conclusion (there’s not much else to say about the notes or the evolution, so we can skip to the end). I can’t help it, call me a tight-ass “classicist”, but this is too much on the very extreme fence between a perfume and a smell – not a stink, just an experimental smell which has little to do with perfumery. I mean, it’s not that any smell can automatically turn into a perfume just by a linguistic transition. It’s just too edgy, unstructured and crude to work as a fragrance in my opinion. It’s great to spray it and smell it, it’s amazingly realistic and it’s fantastic how it evokes the combined smell of wet grass, soil and gasoline, truly a hyperrealistic portrait of Mr. Smith’s Sunday morning mowing the lawn. But why on Earth shall I want to smell like that?

5,5-6/10

Noir Epices by Frederic Malle (2000)



Nose: Michel Roudnitska

Noir Epices effortlessly fills the last spot on my personal chart of Malle’s fragrances - I mean the worst spot. The bottom of the barrel. I don’t get the “black” and ultimately I don’t even get the “spices” that much as well, or not as I would assume at least. I don’t want my spices laid on a corpse, and instead that’s basically how Noir Epices smells. “Carnal”, overdosed nuances of metallic rose-geranium and a nondescript sultry musky note blended with a ridicolously loud concoction of spices and waxy floral-citrus notes, finally infused with a really bizarre and discomforting sort of sugary-watery vein, almost musty and milky. Sounds messy, eh? That’s how it smells, too. It’s loud, vile, ultimately a bit cheap as well, as besides being cacophonously blended, the materials don’t really seem that top-notch either. As hours pass it gets a bit better as it tames down a little at least, becoming slightly sweeter and smoother, but still remaining basically the same awkward and screechy mishmash of musk, soap, wax, spices, expired citronellol candles and blood-stained rusty metal bars. I’m genuinely sorry to sound so tight-butted and unable of getting the magic here, but I find this blatantly atrocious on every level.

4/10

Oud & Bergamot by Jo Malone (2010)



Nose: Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel at her finest, no surprise she’s been chosen to inherit Ellena’s throne. A charming whiff of sophisticated, mellow, androgynous, hyper-modern, clean yet somehow “mysterious” and moody spiced Oriental orange-infused woods. This is Oud & Bergamot by Jo Malone, a refined, minimalist, very well conceived experiment around the contrast between the aromatic, luscious smokiness of oud and cedar (and suede, I think), and the graceful, pastel, zesty and slightly floral touches of bergamot and citrus, with a hint of cinnamon-like touch of sweet – just as in Fendi Theorema for women, also composed by Nagel. All done with an amazingly well-engineered weightless texture taken to the very extreme – basically, pure thin scented air. It feels like a perfect olfactive rendition of some abstract watercolour featuring harmonic drops and brush strokes of pale orange, pale brown, pale black. All smells even, smooth, airy and pale, yet totally “there” under your nose. It’s like smelling a linen shirt previously sprayed with a hypothetical “true” substantial version of Oud & Bergamot – this is how the actual Oud & Bergamot smells. It’s there, and yet it isn’t. Like the suspended memory of a scent, more than an actual scent, and yet it’s there materializing under your nose. Fascinating to say the least. And it’s all done so terribly right, as all notes manage to smell crisp, smooth and clear, yet subtle.

The scent is very simple actually, basically a fairly linear and “white-ish” sort of musky-suede rendition of (synthetic) oud and cedar tinted with some orange and cinnamon. It’s the way Nagel made it that makes it so special. It takes some guts and skills to take these notes and turn them into an impalpable whiff of watercolour mist (I mean, it takes some guts to do it right and not end up with an ephemeral fart of a constipated princess). More than compelling and more than a scent, a little piece of minimalist art. Obviously not a “bomb”, very subtle but quite persistent, more than one may assume: somehow you smell it around yourself for hours and hours even if it seems disappearing from your skin soon. This close to smelling just dull and weak – and maybe it is, and I’m just overestimating it – but I find it just lovely.

8-8,5/10

Black Vetiver by Phaedon (2013)



Nose: Pierre Guillaume

I am missing the “black” part here, at any stage, but nonetheless... what a compelling smooth and modern vetiver this is. Along the line of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver, but noticeably more quality to any extent for me: crisper, more natural, more vibrant, with a more “dimensional” texture, slightly rawer too (or, say, maybe just more “genuine-smelling”). A bit similar to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s Racine as well, mostly for the citrus-vetiver combo, but somehow more transparent, slightly colder and overall more “minimalistic” than that – shortly, more contemporary. The evolution of Black Vetiver is quite simple, basically it starts off with an invigoratingly vivid splash of zesty lemon supported by an initially toned-down elegant accord of smooth, salty vetiver infused with something which smells like a sort of aldehydic musk to me; it’s very subtle, but it gives a peculiar texture to the woody base accord, making it smell as a sort of a greyish, breezy vetiver “mist” sprayed on dry concrete. Well, I’m making it sound more avantgarde than it is, but that’s more or less the effect I get here.

Once most of the greenish top notes of lemon fade away, it’s all about some really great, high quality, vibrant yet pleasantly civilized grassy-salty vetiver still surrounded by that breezy sort of dusty mist I mentioned above – and still lightly infused by some citrus nuances. But most of all it’s vetiver though, and it’s completely, indisputably pleasant as only good vetiver can be. It smells very natural, very woody and grassy-salty (no “inky” nonsense or whatever other ill synthetic rendition of it). And like good vetiver does, it smells also at once very elegant, yet terribly laid-back and easy to wear. As the drydown progresses, some more somber, smokier and slightly sweeter nuances arise, but at no point it will get too “black” – just a bit quieter and moodier, but with a palpable salty-breezy feel underneath. More than “black”, a “grey-yellow vetiver”.

That’s it, it may sound simple and it actually is, but it’s a pure, vibrant kind of simple, something more than pleasant to wear. Thank God none of Guillaume’s trademark mish-mash concepts are here, no weird mojitos and no chubby gourmands gone wrong. This doesn’t smell at all like one of his creations for me, and maybe that’s why it smells so nice. By far my favourite “modern” vetiver, a refined everyday gem and a perfect contemporary companion to the nicest old-school vetivers like Guerlain’s or Carven’s. Still quite overpriced but totally worthy if you can get some discount.

8,5/10

Baie de Genièvre by Creed (1982)



Another discontinued Creed scent way superior to the near majority of their current abysmally insipid range. Baie de Genièvre is an impressively solid masculine spicy fougère straight out of the early 1980’s (still quite 1970’s-inspired, with all that herbal-stale dryness) with some quite peculiar features making it surely worthy a sniff at least – not a purchase at those “vaulted” prices, but surely a try. I mean, it’s very good, it’s a Creed, that’s already quite something.

What I really enjoy about Baie is how simple, robust yet very inspired it smells: basically it’s a crisp, tasteful blend of citrus-infused, herbal juniper notes with their recognizable sort of very aromatic, edgy, bitter, metallic, super dry and dark-boozy nature; then some sharp, earthy, smoky and salty vetiver (“the vintage kind”, rooty and dirty, such as in Maitre’s Route du Vetiver or Goutal’s Vetiver), some very well-fitting sort of sweet-spicy dash of Oriental aromatic powder (they say cinnamon, I trust that, although it smells a bit more generic to me – just something slightly sweet, lukewarm and exotic, even slightly fruity at first) and a light note of lavender - which isn’t listed, but I think I smell it. A sharp, dry, distinguished and very aromatic blend with a palpable sort of “antique” vibe – rusty metal, smoky old woods, sharp herbal spirits. With just the right amount of late-1970’s mojo. There’s some evolution, too: it gets progressively warmer, gentler, powderier, less dry and bitter and a bit smoother and smoky-sweeter, with vetiver and herbs creating a sort of “powdery barbershop” mood. Nina Ricci’s Phileas is maybe a distant relative of this, mostly for the same bold herbal-spicy vein and a very similar sort of “rusty” feel – Phileas is more complex than this, but I think they’ve something in common.

So that’s it, a very old-school, refined yet quite “rugged”, extremely vibrant and very natural-smelling gentleman’s scent with nothing wrong in it – it smells just very good, period. Maybe not overly exciting, but truly impeccable, with solid materials (juniper and vetiver especially!) and a totally neat composition. Very “vintage”, and probably a bit dated for many fans of today’s Creed’s offerings, but definitely a nice option for all fans of classic masculine stuff (nothing macho, but definitely a “virile” blend). By the way, by “vintage” and “dated” I don’t mean generic or boring, though: it’s actually quite of a “statement” scent, due to its metallic-smoky-spicy edginess and sharpness which creates a dark, “raw” vein brilliantly contrasting with its subtle, warm Oriental sweeter side. Extremely versatile as well, it projects quite good without getting too obtrusive. Totally recommended – again, not at full vintage prices though: it’s good, even very good, but not a Holy Grail.

7,5-8/10

Cuoio Fiorentino by Farmacia SS. Annunziata (2016)



Farmacia SS. Annunziata is among the very few Italian brands which keep offering good, sometimes brilliant products with a classy, humble, understated and totally appreciable attitude. Most of their fragrances are simple, maybe simplistic sometimes, but straightforward, very decently priced and with solid performances and quality. And most of all, they share a sort of melancholy, of distinguished darkness, which quite reflects their antique allure and their connection to their ancient roots (which for once, are real).

This new addition to their range got me intrigued from the name already, as I figured that a “Florentine leather” in Farmacia’s style would have surely been interesting to smell. And in fact, it’s quite like I imagined. It’s dark, gloomy, elegantly dry thanks both to the rusty, tanning, sharp and whiskey-infused leather accord, the subtle inky-woody smokiness, but oddly enough also to the sweet-tangy top notes of bergamot and elemi. They should be “bright” and fresh theoretically, but together with the resinous-ambery base notes, they create here a sort of powdery, dusty, sweet-candied and almost moldy “Guerlinade” evoking dusty furniture, vanillic aged paper, an overall sort of “moody Mediterranean” kind of inspiration as you would imagine if thinking of a Medieval Florentine pharmacist boutique. Which is quite a dark inspiration if you think of it, given today’s perception of the “dark ages” of Middle Age. Classy, gloomy, totally Italian. Foreign people tend to associate Italy to “freshness” and “joy”, but I think we’ve quite a dark-veined history and national attitude, and some fragrances did or do reflect that (think of vintage glories like Ferré for Man, Moschino pour Homme, Krizia Moods and so on).

Well anyway, back to the smell: leather’s surely the main accord here, especially in the central hours of the evolution of Cuoio, and it’s done perfectly. Leathers are quite tricky today, they often tend to smell very synthetic and predictable, either in a dry way or in a sweetish Tuscan Leather-like way. Here, you can clearly get the efforts to create a more credible, nuanced, compelling leather accord. It’s quite dry, dark and extremely sophisticated in its whispered texture, raw yet smooth enough, with a mature boozy touch, a very realistic sort of ashy-cedar frame, and some interesting Oriental nuances of saffron and pepper. Sweeter and more resinous at first, getting drier and spicier as hours pass, ending in a smooth, martially simple pure leather drydown still supported by a sharp, slightly salty cedar note.

Shortly a refined, moody leather scent infused with ashy woods and a clever touch of zesty-resinous powdery amberiness letting a lukewarm ray of evening Mediterranean sun in. Somehow restless and somehow laid-back. Subtler than I expected and definitely lighter than most of other Farmacia SS. Annunziata scents I tried, but not a skin scent (almost, though: that would be my only remark). Surely worthy a sniff.

8-8,5/10