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

Cuir Vetiver by Yves Rocher (2016)



Nose: Sonia Constant

One of the most honest, worthwhile and affordably good releases in a long while. I am not a fan of Yves Rocher usually, as despite I respect the brand, none of their releases seemed that interesting to me so far (not even for the price); but Cuir Vetiver quite got me. It is by no means inferior to many decent designers easily showing double the price tag – Hermès, for instance: for the similarity of the notes, the composition and the quality, this could have easily been a budget-mainstream release by them. In fact Cuir Vetiver is basically a cheaper, yet absolutely solid sort of fresher Vetiver Tonka meeting Terre d’Hermès with a thin shade of some smoky tonka-infused suede (and that’s the only “cuir” you’ll get), and also some tangy cardamom nuance which reminds me of another Hermès scent for men – Voyage.

A poor man’s Hermès digest, shortly, with a surprising good quality and a not-so-ordinary texture. Specifically I detect here a more than compelling sort of fresh-woody-powdery transparent clarity dangerously close to Ellena’s style, and despite Cuir Vetiver smells quite close to the stuff I mentioned above, for some reasons it doesn’t feel just like a blatant ripoff of it. I don’t get what precisely, but there’s more than that. It’s like if more than a simple passive carbon-copying activity to monetize on other brands’ ideas, this was just more a genuine “tribute” simply taking inspiration from them with enough skills and budget to elaborate the brief a bit. It’s still 90% close to Vetiver Tonka and the other couple of Hermès I mentioned, but the remaining 10% is, well, a little sparkle of uniqueness (after all, it’s fresher than Vetiver Tonka, and smokier than both Terre and Voyage – unique, in its own and a bit derivative way).

So, all in all, totally recommended. It smells good, classy, versatile, smoky yet fresh and breezy enough to be perfect for any climate and circumstance. And surprisingly natural, too, considering the level of flat syntheticness you usually get at this price range. Sadly the persistence is a bit weak, but it’s so inexpensive that you can simply reapply it on and on. For 29 eur/100 ml or so, a total winner in my “everyday-replacement-for-more-expensive-stuff” book.

8/10

Mr. Burberry by Burberry (2016)



Nose: Francis Kurkdjian

By far one of the most irrelevant, pedestrian, nonsense new launches I smelled in a long time. If something like, say, Dior’s Sauvage seemed like that for you, then Mr. Burberry will make your nose explode. Someone on Basenotes’ forum mentioned an Axe deodorant, and I now regret having used that same term of comparison for scents which compared to Mr. Burberry don’t really deserve that. Because in fact, in my experience Mr. Burberry is the scent which absolutely went the closest to that. Actually it even went further and below– no kidding, the 2,50 EUR deodorant I carry in my tennis bag smells more appealing, nuanced and rich than this garbage.

Basically this is a truly nondescript, extremely artificial, puzzingly uninspired sort of a counterfeit Bleu de Chanel meeting a sport deodorant with a drop of Interparfums’ irritating signature musky-tonka base accord (Armani Code all over again- please fix that time machine, Interparfums!). There’s some synthetic citrus, some extremely generic woody stuff with a pointless sort of subtle minty-creamy nuance (a bit as in Paul Smith London), something sweet-spicy, and that’s it. I’m using the term “something” not out of laziness but because it’s truly the best approximation I can use – I read the composition, but none of the notes mentioned is remotely detectable here for me. It would be a joke to mention cardamom or vetiver here. It’s just woody stuff, spicy stuff, citrus stuff, cheap lab replicas of some “idea” of woods and spices. The same exact materials you find in supermarket deodorants in fact. Just a big generic “something”. And it’s so vastly nonsense that I can’t even think of a possible audience for this, neither can I understand how could Burberry approve to invest money for something so desperately unappealing and cheap.

So shortly, if it wasn’t clear enough, my opinion is that this is a complete depressing trainwreck on every level – quality, inspiration, identity. And if you want to understand better how it smells, I can’t really describe it better than I did above – I know my description sounded generic but this is truly how this scent smells. I’ve never been a fan of Burberry but I’ve always (kind of) respected Kurkdjian’s work on commission, even recently – for example, Carven Homme from 2014 was quite good, and if you compare it to Mr. Burberry you can definitely sense the immense gap of budget and efforts that separates the two scents. This is on the contrary easily the worst scent Kurkdjian ever put his name on, and one of the worst scents by Burberry ever.

3/10