The best of 2014


Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant by Kenzo (1996)



Nose: Dominique Ropion

The opening of Kenzo Jungle Elephant is really peculiar and intriguing (as all its evolution will be): it’s quite sweet but with a dusty, almost sandy texture, and played around an odd and playful concoction of mild notes, somehow gourmand-fruity on the “exotic” side, but quite more bizarre and fascinating than the usual “exotic” clichés. I almost don’t get any note precisely, as this scent is really thick and harmonic; I get more just a sort of psychedelic talc-spicy gourmand blend permeated with a warm, ambery, culinary sweetness and scented with spices (ginger and cumin, to me), a floral-soapy-pollen breeze comprising mostly heliotrope, cardamom, tonka, a fresh green head accord, on a base of sweet notes with a more substantial and shady texture (like white musks with something woodier or earthier underneath). Hallucinogen and totally fun, but it works great: take the world of Teint de Neige by Villoresi or Boucheron’s Jaipur, that kind of “clean”, cozy, slightly formal Oriental powderiness, and bring it upside down, colouring it with a crazy sci-fi jungle/tiki feel: wet flowers, crunchy branches, shades and bright beams, odd sweet flavours of someone cooking God knows what psychotropic candies somewhere deep in the forest. Lively, playful, shameless, raw... but at the same time perfectly solid, pleasant, elegant, cozy and versatile. Just a tad tacky perhaps, but that's part of the fun. Not sure if my review makes sense, but L’Elephant is worth a try for sure – another cheap, under-the-radar designer scent easily overpassing recent niche fragrances to all extents (creativity, uniqueness, quality).

8/10


R'oud Elements by Kerosene (2011)




Nose: John Pegg

The opening of R’oud Elements by Kerosene shows quite many features and recurring notes of America’s contemporary indie perfumery: powerful, slightly boozy-terpenic, dark and incredibly rich, halfway the dark-syrupiness à la (early) M7, mostly for the same amber-oud-booze-herbs structure, and the metallic black amber reminding me of some Slumberhouse scents. Above this, a sharp, sour, dry and aromatic greenish accord with bold metallic whiffs (which don’t sound cheap, though, as they seem “intended” to provide a sort of post-industrial feel, which I guess quite fits the brand – or at least its name) and a base woody accord in fact quite similar to oud – smoky, dry, animalic, with a compelling shady and warm richness. The sandalwood lies somewhere on the very base, just providing a subtle drop of sweetness well contrasting with the general smoky, dark and almost “rotten” vibe. Overall: not bad at all, I enjoy the contrasts between the dark notes and the hints of sweet colour, wrapped in a warm, dark amber and woody feel. After a while the bold metallic aftertaste gets kind of annoying to me, but at least it seems a creative choice with its “raison d’etre” here. The projection is quite loud and the texture in my opinion smells as much creative as quite “elementary” somehow (not minimal, rather just barely simple to the point of smelling clumsy from times to times), but as I said... solid.

7/10


Nononsense 5 by Nico Uytterhaegen (2011)





A contemporary, abstract, “post-industrial” fragrance which does not smell idiotic (and it’s not a CdG)? Hooray. No nonsense #5 opens with a hyper clean soapy-aldehydic accord of pure chemical notes, a grayish-white blend mixed with a wet-concrete like note of dusty musk. Green-floral notes provide a whiff of fresh breeze, crisp and clean too, and on the base I think I detect something woody-mossy (but I guess it’s a nuance of musk). I don’t get the amber accord initially, but once the scent warms up on skin, you feel it arising like a dawn. Finally, I smell a hint of something slightly nutty, like tonka. All of this is quite tightly packed together in a really thin but dense texture, pure grayness in a bottle. A peculiar scent, which you’ve to smell with attention and care in order to get it: in my opinion, it’s more complex and fascinating than it may seem it at a first sniff (or well, that’s my experience with this). The composition is well crafted, clever and unusual, and works perfectly managing to make these few and rather common notes smell “new” and intriguing. A totally compelling, truly contemporary take on musk, which lasts for hours on mainly grayish-musky notes as much abstract as warm, drier and darker as hours pass, with “urinous” nuances on the drydown. Not a masterpiece but much better than I expected. Worth a try for sure!

7/10


Comme des Garçons X Undercover




Holygrace

Holygrace is a bright, transparent, sweet dusty-incense scent, with a cozy sort of cashmeran-like accord on the base (sandalwood, cedar, both heavily synthetic and clean). Soft, sharp and luminous, with a fresh tart opening then gently fading into a spicy-sweet central phase (ginger, red pepper). Overall silky, balsamic, kind of “plushy”. Sweet, but sharp too in a way, as it’s (as most CdG’s) quite “modern” and artificial. A bit dull too, honestly, and therefore soon boring in my opinion, but I won’t say it’s unpleasant. Just too light, too bright, a bit uncreative perhaps, and too ephemeral.

5,5-6/10

+++++++++++++++

Holygrapie

Holygrapie opens as a creamy-green scent with bright floral notes (bit à la Wisteria by the same brand), slightly spicy too, fresh and crunchy with a general feel of synthetic and clean abstractness, well blended with a subtle musky “wet soil” base accord which “darkens” the scent, providing a sort of “humid concrete” feel on the very base (not sure what this may be due to, though – I guess styrax and woods). Apart from this gray shade, a “white” scent indeed. I also get the rhubarb note, kind of melting with the green notes. Then, after one hour or so, Holygrapie almost unexpectedly “opens” blossoming up in a brighter, minimal sort of powdery blend, sweet and slightly soapy, with sandalwood, ylang and orris root emerging. It becomes softer and sweeter than the initial stage, with pink nuances blending with white and grey. All still much clean and tamed down with a bold sort of “contemporary austere” feel, yet really nice. I enjoy the transition between the initial and quite sharp greenish-sour-crunchy accords to this second phase, much more on the silky-sweet side. I also quite like the fact this scent may appear almost dull or too light (well, it’s a bit light indeed...), while instead I find it clever and refined – just a “whispered” kind of refinement. Nice!

7/10


Niche poop roundup # whatever

You missed that, didn't you?

Seriously, save your money.

No years, no photos, no nothing - it's niche poop's shame corner!




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Fruits of the Musk by Montale 

Fruits of the Musk is a completely, desperately synthetic fruity scent, as much milky-syrupy as pungent and artificial. White vanillic musks on the base, together with a dry, dusty and artificially earthy note of patchouli. That’s it, perfectly identical to itself for hours. Boring, cheap, plain, with the same quality, elegance and creativity of the worst celebrity fragrance out there.

4/10

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Oud by Robert Piguet

Harsh, metallic, powerful opening of aldehydes, cloves and other spices, Iso E Super, something slightly sweet-resinous and an almost unperceivable note of synthetic oud (which basically smells like just being “created” by the juxtaposition of aldehydes and some chemical rubber-ish aromachemicals). The only “realistic” note I get is the fir balsam, which is quite powerful together with aldehydes and spices. I don’t get why they called it “Oud”, as it’s basically all about aldehydes, spices and fir balsam. After some hours (I mean 6 or 7) you get more clearly what remains of the note of synthetic oud – not that this is an added value, as it feels like: “where the hell have you been?”. Pungent, artificial, incredibly powerful (like many other new Piguet’s): a tacky, clumsy, annoying and remarkably unpleasant bomb of metallic-synthetic stuff which has not the slightest resemblance to oud – and more sadly, to Piguet’s old trademark quality. I’ll not beat a dead horse, but: horrible!

3/10

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Soleil de Capri by Montale

A terrible citrus-fruity candy, as much realistic and intriguing as a chewing gum, with (synthetic) pungent green notes and a milky base of white flowers and musk ketones. Clumsy, cheap and sickening.

4/10

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Notes by Robert Piguet

At the first sniff Notes smells like a ton of cheap, mass-marketed colognes: a dull bergamot-citrus note with aromatic neroli, synthetic mossy woods, a hint of evernyl (synthetic oak moss), something vaguely floral (lavender) and some aromatic fruity notes. I don’t want to sound pretentious with all these “something” but that is what I smell – generic plain stuff, precisely like in any mall’s fragrance or deodorant. To which Notes smells quite similar in fact, basically it is a generic “whatever” masculine aromatic citrus-woody cologne. Both uninspired, as it sits close to the cheapest [insert inexpensive chainstore brand] scent’s around, and even within this lack of creativeness or at least “elegance”, particularly clumsy and cheap-smelling. So basically it’s boring and not even nice. The price is pure highway robbery to me, and that is part of why my review may sound too grave. Let’s stick to vintage Piguet’s and pretend the brand doesn’t exist anymore...

4/10

(I forgot to specify that after the first sniff nothing changes for hours)

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Tumultu by Les Liquides Imaginaires

Possibly the least “tumultuous” fragrance I’ve ever tried. A quite simple cedar-sandalwood scent stuffed with Iso E Super and at least another woody-ambery aromachemical, with a hint of tart citrus notes on head, a general overall feel of sweet glossy grayness with a slight creamy substance. All artificial, but not enough to carry some “abstractness” or whatever creative meaning for me – just more plain boring. Plus, it quickly loses the few barely interesting facets (notably the initial “invigorating” clash between citrus notes and woods) becoming an endless straight line of Iso E sweetened by a pale debris of sandalwood, and hint of vanilla perhaps. For hours. Not stinky, but cheap, unsubstantial, uncreative and pretentious; surely unworth being considered “niche”, if the term still has some meaning and value – which apparently has not anymore (I’d give this a higher rate if it was a 20 EUR mainstream scent; but it’s not).

4,5-5/10

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Safari Moon by Memo Paris

Safari Moon opens with a fresh, minty-balsamic floral accord without praise or blame, a generic and fairly synthetic bunch of flowers with spices (mostly tonka), citrus head notes, light woods on the base which will then emerge better, notably vetiver. It may sound uninteresting, and in fact it totally is. An uninspired, generic (which here means: “like hundreds of others”) barely decent green-woody-floral Oriental scent on the fresh-aromatic side. Linear drydown. Boringly pleasant, but nothing really “niche”. To quote alfarom on Basenotes: “designer in disguise”. My low vote is also due to the fact that I’ve seen this bottle of boredom on sale in Italy for some 140 EUR for 75 ml, which sounds like a prank, but sadly it’ not. Parvenus' stuff, and another Memo I wouldn’t care for.

4/10


Beloved Man by Amouage (2013)

Meh...



Year: 2013
Noses: Alexandra Carlin and Emilie Coppermann

Beloved Man opens as a pleasant sort of contemporary aromatic-fresh fougère, a woody scent with spicy-floral notes, a green accord (not listed, but I do smell something herbal, balsamic and pine-y). I also get something like a soft, smooth and subtle leather note underneath. The opening is fresh and vibrant, with a nice head accord of round and fruity citrus and bergamot notes (and elemi, which is basically only a generic candied feel), well blended with cedar and the aromatic, salty earthiness of vetiver. In the middle, violet, amber, spices (cloves, cumin), perhaps other flowers. Amber and violet above all provide a cozy sense of mellow warmth. As other Amouage scents, it has an “expensive-smelling” radiant brightness, and is surely pleasant and refined, although also quite a bit synthetic (not in a good way). Plus, nothing really original: again, like other fragrances by this brand, it shows a quite evident inspiration from several late 90’s/early 2000s masculine mainstream scents. Moving on from the opening, once the fresher side tones down, it becomes a darker woody-spicy scent which to me seems pointing towards a couple of “golden-era” Gucci scents. Notably, underneath Beloved Man I feel a sort of faded ghost of Gucci pour Homme I; just fresher, a bit more flashy, and with more Iso E Super, but the "spiced pencil sharpener" is quite totally there. For a while, the similarity smells quite clear to me, then on the very drydown Beloved takes a (slightly) different direction, becoming a bit more dry, herbal, with a more nostalgic and austere feel. Not bad for sure, so keep it and treasure it if someone gifts it to you; but nothing really new and surely unworthy the insane price.

6,5/10


Teint de Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi (2000)

Solid!



Teint de Neige is a really nice “white” musky-aldehydic soapy scent floating in a plushy, dusty cloud of talc, with Oriental notes of tonka, spices, amber, vanilla, a powdery and graceful accord of flowers with a prominent pollen-like note of heliotrope. Warm and cozy, and quite superior quality-wise to many other Oriental “white-sweet” scents. The texture here is thick, rich, deep, smelling round and clean – I bet Villoresi (which for long time has been a great, honest and professional nose) used excellent ingredients here. I really enjoy the golden exoticism blended with a mellow, soapy and “chic” feel of warmth - feels like being in the coziest bath tub in the world. Despite being soft and sweet, is not exactly a discreet scent, so I’d use it more as a “comfort scent” at home; people around you may not enjoy its quite powerful sweet-Oriental projection. It’s refined, just a bit bold for a while. After a couple of hours it turns towards soapy-pollen notes of flowers, becoming a bit more grey, dusty, dry, with a more prominent presence of amber, slightly melancholic and pleasantly “outdated” too (the camphoraceous aftertaste of white musks plus aldehydes, I guess), always with exotic hints of tonka. Shortly just a bit less plushy and sweet than the opening. Long-lasting, mellow drydown with mostly talc-soapy-ambery notes. Graceful and refined. I thought of Jaipur Homme at some points. Really nice!

7,5-8/10


John Galliano Eau de Parfum for Women (2008)

Just be sure to grab the right version.



Original EDP (90 ml format)

The original, early version of John Galliano (EDP, 90 ml bottle) is a fantastic, complex, incredibly well-crafted green-powdery floral scent exuding all the composition talent of Christine Nagel (which I recognized here even before knowing she was actually the nose behind this scent). Since the very first sniff, the original Galliano EDP is a harmony played around powder and balsamic notes, with a fresh, tart aromatic hint of citrus and bergamot, then green notes, soapy rose-white flowers permeated with a gorgeous sort of crystalline brightness all over, a hint of vanilla, amber, cumin, a sweet-woody note on the base, white musks, discreet chalky aldehydes. What surprises me the most here is the peculiar texture, which is really thin, transparent, somehow “grey-ish”, incredibly clean yet complex and “vertical”, with a stunning richness and deepness of notes; it is decidedly all on the “fresh-spicy-floral” side, so all rather silky, fresh and dusty (no creaminess, no “juicy” wet flowers)... at the same time, all incredibly sharp, crisp, luminous and invigorating. Apart from other Nagel’s masterworks, I also thought of L’eau de Givenchy and that kind of “fresh” green-floral scents. Violet and iris compose the powdery accord, and while the reformulated version contains more (synthetic) iris, here I actually get more violet. The drydown is impeccable, always slightly grey-ish (I guess because of aldehydes too) but at the same time crisp, balsamic, talc, halfway foggy and celestial, with a musky-powdery breeze melting with herbal-green notes. It constantly changes,yet remaining perfectly consistent. The persistence is long and close to skin. Far more discreet and refined than the subsequent version, and also more elegant, much better composed and with higher quality materials – if you want my advice, seek for this early version only (pretty easy to spot, they made it only in 90ml format, while the subsequent one was marketed in 40/60 ml bottles). Incredibly pleasant. Mandatory for all floral scents lovers (and for niche enthusiasts which snub designer scents... well, I still have to find niche floral scents which are able to stand close to this good!).

8,5-9/10
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Reformulated EDP (40/60 ml format)

Now, the subsequent reformulated version - which I’ve been told was produced elsewhere, this leading to a new formula & new materials that affected the quality (boy, they did...). The opening, for instance: far bolder, more pungent, more sour than in the original version, and also at the same time more fruity and sweet. Basically: more tacky, or better say more “flashy”. By this I mean all smells richer, but an artificial, saturated, harsh and “on-steroid” kind of rich. All notes smell like if they’ve been inflated with some weird kind of gas. No trace of the discreet, complex, naturally-evolving refinement of the 90 ml EDP with its balsamic and crystalline sharpness; here's all more loud, more spicy, with a bolder and more pungent synthetic feel all over. I get quite a lot less vanilla, less flowers (and surely, far less “silky” than there). The structure is roughly the same, just all here is heavier, tackier, more synthetic and camphoraceous. Plus (but that’s not a defect), I also get a whiff of carnation here – something I didn’t get in the early version. On the drydown it’s all even more dry, artificial and synthetic, more heavy and above all terribly linear, pretty much identical to itself for hours - while the evolution of the first EDP is mutating, complex, “evolving” in its true meaning, reaching a peak of foggy-talc powdery refinement which you won’t really experience with this more recent version (that on the contrary, after three hours is still the exact same synthetic floral polaroid). Now I don’t want to overestimate the differences, the reformulated version is still decently nice... as much decent as just incomparable to the original EDP to pretty much any extent.

6-6,5/10


Editor's pick: Three solid mainstream scents

More or less good & more or less unexpensive.

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Aramis - Aramis 


Year: 1966
Nose: Bernard Chant

Aramis Classic is a fantastic, solid, powerful and – as the name goes – more than classic leather chypre, so austere and straightforward it smells almost like a canon of prototypical masculinity in perfumery. Dark and bold, warm and with just a thin feel of “macho”, basically centered around leather, herbs, aldehydes, classic “manly” flowers (jasmine, lavender) and a base accord of oak moss and woods – all of this at least in the vintage EDC version I own, which is the only version I’ve worn so far of this fragrance. I got it for $12 and it has a fantastic depth rich in “aged” density (and a nuclear sillage). Great flowers, great leather, impressive oak moss. Everlasting drydown. A timeless, no-frills, dark masculine manifesto. The cheesy American cousin of Hermès Bel Ami. Conventional, but not outdated and not boring at all – simply a bold, comforting classic. As I said I do not know the actual version, I’m sure it’s great too, but personally, generally if a vintage version of a scent exists, then I’d go for that “a priori”. Anyway, beautiful!

8/10

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Bottega Veneta - Eau de Parfum


Year: 2011
Nose: Michel Almairac

Bottega Veneta EDP opens with a fantastic, sharp, simple yet powerful and distinctive powdery-earthy blend, with a zesty bergamot note (which will be gone in seconds), juicy red pepper, patchouli, oakmoss and a vibrant yet tamed-down jasmine note, all surrounded by a light shade of leather and “reinforced” by aldehydes which also provide a sort of classic allure to the composition. The texture is really peculiar, as it smells at the same time cristalline, clean and vibrant yet thick, somehow “grayish” and dense: an elegant, powdery, talc white-floral accord beautiful sustained by dark, earthy and rooty notes of moss and patchouli, which smell at the same time dirty and perfectly restrained – so don’t expect anything realistic, raw or exotic: the inspiration is quite “glossy” and French in my opinion. Finally I smell a sort of mineral-salty feel which seems arising from the base earthy-mossiness, blending with aldehydes and the floral-indolic feel of jasmine. On the drydown it becomes increasingly less sweet and talc, and more herbal-mossy, but always extremely gentle and sophisticated. There is a genius and really well executed harmony going on between the powdery plushiness and the almost-indolic earthiness of the base notes, which makes Bottega Veneta smell incredibly good, refined and unique. Plus, don’t be “fooled” by the pyramid, as all notes smell quite unusual to me if compared to how they usually smell – not sure whether it’s because of the good quality of materials, or Almairac’s talent, but I had quite a hard time in “detecting” them – I expected something quite different, while here they all smell different than usual, in a totally good way. Bottega Veneta EDP is elegant and versatile, but peculiar and quite memorable: it’s a sort of half white/pink, half greyish/earthy fragrance, with nice shades and a gentle feel of pastel grace beautiful dirtened by darker notes. All, as I said, created with great and bright creativity. Worthy a try (or even a blind buy, as it is not that expensive).

7,5-8/10

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Kenzo - Jungle pour Homme


Year: 1998
Nose: Olivier Cresp

Kenzo's Jungle pour Homme opens with a really peculiar, distinctive and to me totally pleasant accord composed by a sort of odd spicy-green-fruity blend, much aromatic and slightly milky, with sharp lime notes juxtaposed to a creamy, fruity, slightly synthetic feel of tropical fruits (banana, a bit of coconut too), enhanced by carnation and spices – notably nutmeg and cloves. Beyond this, a perfectly-blended note of sandalwood, which is quite sweet and creamy as well. Overall the name fits this scent perfectly, as it is quite an exotic and bizarre Oriental scent which surely conjures a “jungle” mood. What I admire the most is the effort to create something less usual than predictable “green-forest” clichés, trying to evoke a whole “raw nature” ambiance – spices, woods, leaves, even a sort of aqueous-mineral feel. The opening is quite bold, then it suddenly tones down to a nutty-citrus green and creamy blend with a prominent sandalwood note, all well wrapped up in a sort of “balsamic” creaminess that tames down both the fruity-sweet side, and the spices, avoiding to become either “too gourmand” or too spiced. Totally creative and distinctive, but well balanced and restrained enough to be perfectly safe, pleasant and unisex in any circumstance. Finally, on the drydown it becomes more quiet, more gentle and more dry, with spices and woods (cedar too) emerging to the point of bringing Jungle Homme almost close to a woody fougère territory – still with a balmy-sweet Oriental vibe all over, also with distant echoes of Opium pour Homme. A bit synthetic (this meaning “cheap”) here and there, but really nice and creative, also smelling fairly “niche” (in the positive meaning).

7/10

p.s.: my review is based on the older bottle in the purple box, not sure if it smells like the subsequent one.


Antaeus by Chanel (1981)

Hail to the king!


Nose: Jacques Polge

A magnificent, raw but refined opening of musky castoreum, warm but dry and really close to leather (like in Knize Ten and other classics), but gently softened by aromatic woods, spices and silky colourful hints of flowers. Animalic but friendly and elegant, it has a typical fougère "gloominess" but it also appears more "young", relaxed and modern than most of other more classic and austere fougères, and also more sophisticated and sharp. The evolution is quite predictable, as it remains a castoreum-leather smoky accord, just drier and lighter as hours pass. Restrained and noble, always without being too shady or heavy, rather keeping it slightly "airy" and more lively thanks to rose, jasmine and fresh tasty herbs like thyme and sage. Versatile, classy, cozy, masculine. Timeless classic!

9/10

(pic is from my collection. Be sure to go vintage for this!)


Tonka Impériale by Guerlain (2010)



Nose: Thierry Wasser

Guerlain goes back to its majesty. I am not really a fan of tonka, so I procrastinated the approach to this scent. Which contrary to what I feared, is great. Beyond great! The opening is pure beauty, a sophisticated, rich, golden cornucopia of vanilla, amber, resins, aldehydes, jasmine, all together bringing in triumph a complex, faceted, rich, tremendously high-quality tonka note, well supported by a sweet, humid, rooty tobacco note. A warm, fairly unisex Oriental blend, slightly fruity too, refined and sumptuous and terribly pleasant to wear (at least for a while, especially for its first phase), well framed by a gentle breeze of petals and aromatic herbs which give this Oriental gem a touch of elegance halfway French and Mediterranean. The tonka note is perfect: dense, vibrant, round, precious, not cloying (to me it is, quite often) and not too almondy-roasted. It smells fresher and more vibrant than usual, partially probably due to its quality, partially to the simple yet totally clever composition which effortlessly enhances its nuances – from earthy to sweet. The tobacco note works perfectly in keeping the blend literally “down to earth”, providing a shady whiff of smoke, contrasting with while flowers and citrus bringing their sunrays in. And in the middle, this vibrating, warm heart of gold made of amber, vanilla and tonka. Great and elegant silky-talc drydown, discreet and still carrying soft hints of tobacco and vanilla, with no synthetic aftertaste. A perfect blend of richness and Exoticism painted with French grace and sumptuosity, great and irresistible from the very first sniff to the last second on skin. Smells, and is, hell expensive, but (finally!) for a reason. Fantastic, and for me easily the best from this “exclusive” line.

8,5-9/10


Or du Sérail by Naomi Goodsir (2014)



Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

Booo-riiing! A sweet syrupy bomb built on the clash between dry, dark and earthy notes of tabacco-labdanum, booze (it wouldn’t be niche without the boozy note, you know...), honeyed-pollen flowers and a hyper sweet, candied, Lutensian accord of fruit and resins with a balsamic aftertaste. All sinking in sugar. Basically something like Histoires de Parfums’ 1740 drowned in molasses, a clumsy galore of unrelated contrasts among dry tobacco, melted plastic and honey sweets, also fairly reminding some By Kilian's as other reviewers noted. Without all the sweetish stuff it would smell probably better, although it would just basically be a wannabe Fumerie Turque. As-is, in my opinion it’s just tacky and exhausting. I don’t blame Duchaufour as he obviously just runs where they call & pay him, but I think he would make a better use of his talent (which he has, undoubtedly) if he just stopped working on a dozen of scents per year – ‘cause then, these are the results...

4,5-5/10


MDCI Parfums - Three picks (three meh's...)

Meh! (and those bottles... come on!).


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Cuir Garamante (2013)

Nose: Unknown

A pile of exhausted tires and a bucket of fruits left to burn for an entire summer in the backyard under the sun, that's pretty much the smell you get: sweet and pungent, with a dry, cloying burnt-rubber (norlimbanol) leather note. Simple, sharp, straightforward dry leather with some syrupy-rancid floral notes, the same concept you find behind other crap contemporary leathers like Hard Leather by LM Parfums. Personally I do not find the accord much well done – kind of some dissonance I really don't like, but I am more than happy to admit it is my personal taste and my prudish limits. Gets better after a while, but fun enough, it jumps on the opposite side: it just becomes pleasantly dull and safe. Oud fans may like this as well, same gloomy rubbery dryness you can find in several (so-called) oud scents. And also leather aficionados will probably love this (I like leather, but I don't like this). Not my cup of tea.

4,5/10

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Chypre Palatin (2012)

Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

Yet another MDCI scent I don’t get the value of. I tested this twice, the first one some months ago, then some weeks ago, just to see if my nose “grew better” and I could be able to get the good of this scent. I didn’t, it still smelled exactly as much dull as the other time. Here’s what I get: an aldehydic floral-fruity chypre, soapy and talc, with citrus top notes and an artificial rendition of musky-civet notes with dark woods, restrained and quite understated. Surely elegant, classy, pleasant to wear, radiant and obscure at the same time... just like dozens of others. My “problem” with this and other similar fragrances (Roja Dove, Bogue), which despite being niche just stand on the shoulders of previous mainstream giants, is that I can’t help not taking this as a mere ghost of a chypre, pedantically duplicating that type of structures and accords, just with a more contemporary allure due to nowadays’ ingredients – this meaning lighter, more synthetic, more plain. More bright in a way, and that may be positive. I am ok with this, as there is plenty of uncreative perfumes just reiterating these and other styles on purpose; I just don’t get why paying so much for this, and why this shall be considered niche, which shall be the “élite avantgarde” of perfumery. The materials smell ok to me, the rip-off work is fine, the persistence is crap, where’s the plus justifying the incredibly high price? Not questioning other peoples’ money choices, but I am clueless on the reason why one should even just look for this. Nice and compelling in the least interesting meaning ever for me.

5,5-6/10

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Rivage des Syrtes (2009)

Nose: Patricia de Nicolai

Rivage des Syrtes opens with a pleasant, silky, fresh, slightly metallic-aldehydic breeze of citrus notes (more precisely on the “orange-floral” side) blended with a synthetic, cyclogalbanate-like fruity note which you smell in several cheap fruity scents (that annoying “pineapple” note, which *always* carries that annoying sort of moldy-metallic aftertaste - and by the way, is used to build galbanum too), all posed on a sheer layer of white clean flowers – I get ylang more than tuberose. Green tips and a sandalwood base with a warm resinous-ambery aftertaste. Yawn. A barely pleasant and conventional Oriental fruity-powdery scent which tries to play the “random metallic-moldy crap unrelatedly juxtaposed to flowers and fruits” card to look creative and justify its surreal price.

5/10


Hermessence: Cuir d'Ange by Hermès (2014)




Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena

The new Cuir d’Ange by Hermès is undoubtedly a gorgeous scent, showing an actual careful work, great composition skills (not that we needed a confirmation for that), and perfect choice of materials. As-is, the idea is not new: basically a floral-suede scent with a subtle, slightly earthy floral accord of narcissus and heliotrope topped with musky-anisic-spicy tips, but Ellena succeeds in making it smell completely innovative and unique, putting together an impressively crystalline, sharp, clear, deep scent – not a “thick” deepness, rather airy, almost celestial as the name suggests. Cuir d’Ange is ethereal and minimalist in a way, as regards to the composition, yet really dense and with a quite bold projection. The leather accord (which I am usually quite picky about) is great, carrying a range of nuances from musky to silky/polished, all conveyed in a slightly drier and more “roasted” accord if compared to the usual and over-used (most of times, rather uncreatively) safraleine/suederal bases. It smells contemporary and synthetic in a way, but not conventional. Floating all over, a gentle and slightly resinous anisic-floral breeze with a sort of subtle “milky” substance (or better say “watery” in a liquid, mineral meaning – not ozonic, shortly), melting with a powdery white musks note, all together colouring this scent with delicate pastel hints of grace. Simple yet complex and incredibly well executed, showing all Ellena’s clever elegance and ability in creating a thin scent full of nuances and notes which fill the space at the same time leaving it airy and “empty”. Beautiful and also quite persistent despite being close to skin (as you would expect, from both this type of fragrance and Ellena’s style). A bit linear perhaps, but not a flaw here. I can not think of any particular similarity with other scents, as this really brings the floral-leather genre to another level, but I'll agree with the similarities reviewers mentioned online - e.g, Guerlain's Cuir Beluga or Heeley's Cuir Pleine Fleur, but the distance from both (and others) is wide enough - just more a matter of general inspiration. So, in short, a sophisticated and terribly pleasant scent which is compelling and remarkable to every extent, and most important, totally unique and distinctive despite showing a deceptively “already-seen” pyramid of notes. Now, if the market situation was different and there were more remarkable new scents around (as I wished), I’d be probably less enthusiastic and rate this only as a “really good” scent; but given the dramatic lack of new ideas and good scents both in niche and mainstream, this is a memorable standout. Probably more costly than it should be, but nice enough to be worth it (perhaps...).

8,5-9/10


Theorema EDT by Fendi (1998)



Nose: Christine Nagel

Theorema opens with a powerful spicy accord, Oriental and sweet, with dusty and exotic notes of cumin, resins (olibanum too?), cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, all supported by woods – I get sandalwood and cedar – and softened by a graceful, light floral breeze with a sprinkle of citrus and neroli, providing an irresistible fruity-warm feel to an otherwise quite pungent blend. A totally modern opening for a scent which could have been released last week; Theorema has a sophisticated, bright sort of “thin” substance and transparency, which is quite typical of many contemporary scents, yet not smelling plain or cheap: all ingredients smell terribly sharp, high-quality and vibrant, it’s just that most of them are, say, “high-pitched” notes (spices, citrus) and this creates a sort of light transparency, yet dense and bold. The unsurpassed beauty of this scent lies in the incredible class with which Nagel composed it: the spicy structure is perfectly counter-balanced by the watercolor sweetness of flowers, all darkened with a gentle shade of woods. All is discreet, simple, almost “geometrical”, clean and incredibly sharp, clear and bright. Radiant, refined, a joy to wear and to discover, civilized enough to please also non-lovers of resinous-spicy scents (I’m one of them). Elegant sillage, decent persistence, totally unisex. Far superior to its masculine companion, by the way.

8,5-9/10


Solid discontinued cheapos: Arpège pour Homme EDT by Lanvin (2007)


Nose: Oliver Pescheux

Arpège pour Homme is an unpretentious scent which I’ve always considered fairly underrated for its value. It is not a masterpiece and not even a “great” scent, but it’s a good, solid mainstream fragrance which would surely fit many perfumistas’ shelves – if they only knew how actually good it is. The genre here is the sweet-powdery-ambery-spicy “metropolitan” and contemporary à la Dior Homme, plus a slight similarity with the equally underrated Jil Sander Man by Wasser & Menardo: here, as in Arpège, there is violet, sandalwood and a soft, polished, synthetic leather note (which I don’t see listed for Arpège, but I clearly smell it). Arpège pour Homme is somehow halfway these two, but spicier, warmer and more Oriental than both, especially in the first stages of its evolution. It opens with sandalwood, violet, spices (comprising also a “juicy” red pepper note), cardamom and tonka, amber, a refreshing yet subtle and silky citrus-bergamot breeze, a woody-balsamic note and a light, mellow and soft leather note. Soft, clean, effortless and “office-safe” elegance, with the right amount of versatile “mainstreamness” but without smelling generic or boring. I used this scent some years ago, right after its release, and I recall  it was not a commercial success as I remember buying it for pennies in a mall; once I finished my bottle (which occurred quickly as back then I used mostly 1-2 scents at a time), I did not buy again until now. And now that I smell it again, I realise how distinctive it was, as it did not remind me any other scents – and I surely tried hundreds in the meantime. So, anyway: a bit mainstream, but not dull at all. As I said, the reference may be Dior Homme, not for an actual similarity of notes (well, just a bit), but more for the general inspiration behind this scent; it’s one of those mid-2000s sweet, mellow, soft and slightly feminine scents aimed at a sort of  “urban”, thirty-something and office-safe kind of elegance, a bit glossy and trendy too (did we have the term “metrosexual” for this?). Finally, the drydown of Arpège is even better than the first phase, as it’s woodier, smokier, a bit darker and more dry, less “rich” than the opening, still irresistibly powdery and soft. Perfect sillage and solid longevity. Quite unisex too. It’s discontinued but you can still find it for cheap – and my advise would be to grab it, in case.

7,5/10


Gomma EDC by Etro (1989)



Undoubtedly, the opening makes quite clear the close similarity to Knize Ten several other reviewers picked up. That is what I thought too almost instantly. But for me, call me heretic, and speaking as a fan of both Etro and Knize, Gomma (vintage eau de cologne in paisley box) is better. Actually much better. It carries that irresistible charme of several early Etro’s, a nondescript yet totally recognizable feel of smoky, rich, mystic exoticism, here played with a somber, powdery and sumptuously soapy mood perfectly rendered by a fantastic jasmine note, powerful and gloomy, a soapy feel which seems exuding from a baroque macabre still life. All perfectly blended with sour-green notes and this gigantic central leather accord which is much “rubbery” in fact, but not artificial: it’s dry, sour, pungent but also soft, smoky, warm, rounded by a mellow amber accord, and carrying quite a natural feel of organic rubber. One of the nicest leather accords I’ve ever experienced, which reveals its quality on the drydown – a heavenly, sinful, subtle harmony of amber and leather. Gomma is overall austere and quite classic, yet deceptively simple or “conventional”: to me it’s like if it had a sort of fractal structure, with the two main characters – leather and green-floral soapy notes – which can be “dissected” into further nuances and notes – amber, smoke, rubber, earthy notes. Knize is to me quite more “monolithic”, more powerful and in a way, more simple and reassuringly solid: still great, just different. Gomma instead has just something exotic and creepy, that I can’t describe better but it’s something other vintage Etro’s have (take Palais Jamais, for instance) and that is what makes them so special to me. Elegant and shady, a bit light if you want, I’d call it “discreet”.

8/10


Helmut Lang reissues: Cuiron, Eau de Cologne, Eau De Parfum (2014)

No worries: they did a good job.



Eau de Parfum

The new version of Helmut Lang's EDP is quite close to the new EDC, just with a slightly more prominent presence of tonka, vanilla and heliotrope - less metallic, transparent and "abstract" than the EDC and a bit more warm, substantial, more balmy and sweeter, and in a way more "conventionally" cozy and clean. Yet, it still carries as well that particular sort of architectural, dusty feel of "gray", so the avantgarde factor which makes Lang's range so unique is here as well. If you had to choose between the new EDP and EDC, my advice would to be to go for this; it's not exactly the same, but is fairly similar, just richer and a bit more persistent. Sadly I can not give my opinion about the faithfulness as regards to the original version, as I've never tried it. As-is, I consider it a really pleasant, clean, well-built scent, a bit costly but unique enough to be worth at least a try (by the way, I agree with the similarity with Labdanum 18 some reviewers picked up online).

7,5-8/10

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Eau de Cologne

Briefly put: at the very first sniff, the new version of this EDC smells much close to the original one, giving you that instinctive, soothing feel of "oh, that's it!". The only difference I detect, speaking of notes, is that this new version appears to be somehow slightly softer, sweeter and "whiter". The original one managed to blend harmonically a clean whiteness with a metallic and shady grayness, in a really faceted yet minimalist composition; here, that fascinating subtle contrast seems a bit tamed down in a blend more tending towards a straightforward "clean" feel, slightly softer, sweeter and also perhaps a bit more fruity than its previous version. In short, it seems to me slightly less "dirty" than the vintage EDC – that peculiar kind of dusty, "lunar" dirt. Apart from this, which perhaps is just a matter of subtle nuances, as I said the notes smell all quite similar. The main difference between the two versions is another one, and it is about the *substance* of the notes, which smell quite different to me between the two versions in terms of texture – and this may be considered a "deal-breaker". The new one is significantly lighter, sharper, cleaner, standing to its original version like a hologram, or a shade, just capturing its surface appearance leaving behind all its substantial richness and evolution – its "life", basically. I won't say the difference is as much clear (and depressing) as lying on a Moroccan beach and watch a poster of that beach while sitting in a travel agency, but that is the concept. And it's something you'll notice after one hour or so of full wearing. Comparisons aside though, if you are not familiar with the original EDC and you don't care much of it, this cologne is basically a white heaven of lavender, heliotrope, tonka, vanilla, sandalwood and a dry, aromatic herbal notes, sharp and classy, so "abstractly" clean it can work pretty much anywhere and anytime. And if you are not particularly picky and always wanted to smell the original EDC... this is quite faithful to its predecessor, taking into account the differences I mentioned. A little duller, yet still pleasant.

7/10

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Cuiron

Straight to the point: a sight of relief, they did not mess with this. It's not "it" anymore, this meaning there is some differences and therefore in a way it's still worth to get the original one (*only* in case of good deals, don't feed eBay shark sellers), but they did not ruin it, and this one is totally compelling and good the same. And the fact there are some differences does not mean there aren't bold similarities as well - which in fact there are, and honestly, are actually more than the differences. Less picky noses would probably consider the two scents identical. Anyway, for whom is familiar with the vintage Cuiron, the main difference which I smell at the very opening is a rubbery-roasted note which is used pretty much anywhere today to build "light" leather accords, a dry and dusty accord of safraleine and quinolines. All the rest is pretty much identical to older Cuiron: all its clean whiteness, its irresistible, sophisticated, soft, plushy and plummy floral-vanillic and "non-leather" suedeness is perfectly rendered here too. White musks, bergamot, spices, all in its right place. It is just all posed on this thin layer of leather which wasn't there before, and which makes the new Cuiron sadly a tad more conventional, as if they wanted to give a bit of a boost to the "cuir" side - or to make it *really* clear it's a leather scent, taking away the magic of the vintage one, which was a leather, yet it kind of wasn't.... So, anyway, on one side, it's surely a honest and pleasant reformulation which gives us most of the original scent; but, besides an overall lightness (contrary to the minimalistic yet rich and dense substance of the vintage version), the "con" in my opinion is precisely that leather note, which kind of makes Cuiron more normal, more "another minimalistic leather". One of the nicest around, probably, but "one of them" - and not "one of a kind" anymore. But, surprise: the drydown gives a whiff of hope, as this leather note tones down to the point it almost disappears, so you remain with all the rest which as I said, it's basically "the true Cuiron", that seems even to become bolder and richer than in the first stage. And the sillage you get at this point is *definitely* "that" Cuiron. Overall I personally enjoy this new version; the similarity is close, perhaps they tamed down a bit the avantgarde side by introducing that sharper leather note, but it still "works" well in my opinion - both if comparing to the older version, and itself as-is. It's a sophisticated, clean, unique, understated, simple yet complex "modern leather" scent, which manages (perhaps somehow clumsily at the opening) to delivery again that vibrant feel of clever minimalism which made the vintage line of Lang's scents so special. Plus the persistence is decent. Kudos for not having messed up with this gem.

8/10


Abdul Samad Al Qurashi: Crassna 25-yr Aged Oud


I decided to leave this 25 years old aged ou for a "second stage" of my approach with A.S.A.Q. scents, in order to get better in touch with the mood of the house and this Eastern way of composing and producing. I did not want to get it "wrong" or not be able to appreciate it at the fullest. I think I was right, now that I tested some other (great!) oils by this brand, I thoroughly enjoyed this exotic beauty. As the name says, Crassna 25 y.o. Aged Oud is an almost pure-oud oil rich in aged agar wood: I also smell a slight camphoraceous-salty note of amber gris, and perhaps a gentle addition of flowers, but this may all be due to the richness of oud. Which is obviously the prominent note, and as you can imagine by the quality of this house (if you are familiar with it), is beyond incredible. The opening is less "stinky" than I feared, not challenging at all; it's surely powerful and bold at first, but its woody, moldy muskiness manages to smell just utterly refined, evocative and rich like a Byzantine mosaic. Actually it's more musk and civet which smell sometimes unbearably "stinky" and indolic. The agar wood here is warm, woodier than wood, smoked (more than "smoky"), raw and organic, with a bit of "rancid" nuances probably due to aging, and a subtle salty aftertaste which as I said, smells a bit like ambergris. It's fun how here in Europe and USA we use the same name (oud) for, basically, depressing smoked rubber which has not the slightest resemblance with this material, in terms of depth, dimensionality, strength, evocative power. The evolution of this Crassna oil shows balsamic nuances which come and go, and again the "smoked" feel you also detect at the very opening - somehow similar to birch tar, a sort of smell of smoked ham. Not a complex scent, just a rich, archaic yet sophisticated harmony of notes: balsamic, dark, smoked, ambery, floral, salty... all in a raw, simple piece of black aged agar wood, stuffed like in a magic vase. After two or three hours the blend becomes increasingly softer and sweeter, more velvety and softer: notes of vanilla, amber and "warmer" woods make Crassna smell more cozy and mellow, always rich and smoked, just in a gentler and more understated way. The persistence is of course quite strong and long-lasting, you easily get a whole day of enjoyment with a small application of some drops on a small portion of skin - I guess that with larger quantities and perhaps applying them on clothes too, you get probably weeks of this heaven. Utterly refined and easily the best oud scent I have ever tried in my limited experience, I would consider this a mandatory "stop" for any perfume lover (a sample is enough and completely worth every penny: bear in mind these oils are pure concentrated power). A trip in space and time, perfect alone or great for layering with other oils.

9/10


Coquillete Paris: Tudor



Coquillete Paris (Paris, Italy...) is since a couple of years quite a hyped "new sensation" of the Italian niche market, which given the quality of the fragrances, seems to me owing its success pretty much entirely to the support of "friendly" bloggers and forums. This new Tudor they showcased at Pitti Fragranze, preceded by a (imho) hilariously kitsch video teaser, has sadly all the features of a chainstore fragrance: it's basically a woody rose scent with an alleged "dark" side I don't get that much, and a trendy-youngster vibe all over - pretty much like dozens of mainstream scents targeted at young women. Besides rosewood, which smells more like plain rose *and* wood, a balmy-creamy floral heart of galaxolide, a slightly earthy base of mossy notes, patchouli and benzoin, all rounded by vanillin and perhaps white musk ketones. Shortly after the first hour, it's all about a generic, dry, fairly plain and slightly dark rose-woody blend with no specific notes detectable. As much pleasant as uninspired, mediocre and dull, with barely decent materials (metallic and rubbery nuances, low projection and persistence). The price is not that high, at least, but in my opinion it's still not worth it. Strictly for parvenus.

4,5-5/10


Cerchi nell'acqua: An overview

Cerchi nell'acqua is an apparently underrated Italian niche line composed (and owned?) by nose Enrico Buccella. I've tested almost all the scents in their range (thanks to a friend which gave me the samples, no sponsorhips) and surprisingly they were almost all pretty much good, except for a couple of "fails" which however I tend to consider "in good faith". Here's the goods & the bads for me.



***

Ambr'erò

Ambr'erò opens with a powerful, spicy, dirty and carnally shady accord right out of a classic dusty feminine chypre; the amber is thick and dense, dark, boozy, lying on a base of mossy-earthy and slightly animalic notes which enhance its darker and gloomier side - I smell here benzoin, patchouli, oak moss, even civet perhaps. At the center floats a vibrant jasmine note, which is good and realistic and adds a humid, heavy and "grey" floral note to an already dark blend. An interesting amber scent for sure, really spicy and musky, and a bit "moldy" too, which retains the dusty and golden warmth of amber but underlines its darker nuances in a creative and clever way. I also detect something similar to ambergris, and I mean the real one, a sort of camphoraceous, organic, salty smell which is typical of that material - but perhaps it may just be vetiver blending with other notes. On the drydown Ambr'erò sticks to its dark, spicy, woody chypre path, well centered on the baroque, almost intoxicating richness of jasmine, with a warm, dirty, somehow musky shade of amber. Really elegant, compelling and pleasant to wear, sumptuously austere, well built for sure: a peculiar scent which starts from chypres but twists the clichés in an unusual modern way. Great persistence, powerful projection. Remarkable.

8/10

***

L'Exotique

Keyword: citrus. The opening is just an overwhelming, ultra-sour bomb of citrus and lime, really bitter and zesty, terribly realistic, astringent and pungent like ammonia. Greener than green, with a hint of boozy, so basically like a lime cocktail. This opening is so powerful and realistic and extraordinarily raw, it almost does not really smell like a "perfume", rather a pure plain smell of citrus and limes, as if you cut one in two and apply it on your skin. In a way, it's quite a statement fragrance, as it's basically so martial, austere (composition-wise) and "basic" it may be taken like some sort of avantgarde, ultra-raw and simple citrus composition: a hyperrealistic take on the classic masculine "eau de cologne" tradition – as below all this citrus, there is indeed here too a subtle base accord of patchouli and woods. On the other side, though, after this brilliant opening something starts to emerge with increasing sharpness... which is that ammonia note I mentioned at the beginning of my review. It was just a nuance at first, but it soon starts to become the prominent smell. And ammonia is an euphemism for, well, "cat pee". A pungent and more and more unbearable synthetic harsh smell of that, which made me make quite a 180° change of mind about Exotique - it smelled promising at first, but then it went just wrong. An interesting idea perhaps, but sadly it just does not work for me.

5/10

***

White Out

White Out opens with a peculiar accord, at the same time rough and almost harsh yet clean and "white" indeed: a sort of powdery, "anidric" aldehyde with a white musky dust, sweet (vanilla) and resinous, with also a note of tonka, but at the same time really metallic, salty, "mineral" in an abstract and almost industrial way. There are these white-green floral and powdery-musky nuances blending with an almondy talc, slightly boozy too, all floating into a "grey", gloomy, austere post-industrial place. The concept seems not that far from Helmut Lang EDC for instance, although White Out is sweeter, spicier, less "clean" and less complex (less cool, shortly). The drydown is predictably more dry and more dark, always "white" but dirtier and more austere, with also a spicy-woody according emerging with more strength - always covered with a white thin dust of talc, vanilla, musky and almondy floral notes. Shortly a sort of grey, futuristic, spicy and clean Oriental scent. Really persistent, too (as all the fragrances of this line). A "déja-vu" perhaps... but well build and worth a try.

7/10

***

Ipazia

Ipazia is a pleasant "exercise" of rebuilding a fairy conventional floral-woody chypre with a modern taste. The opening shows nuances of aldehydes, a camphor note of benzoin, oak moss (unexpectedly thick and rich), neroli, herbal-balsamic notes, and a subtle hint of leather. A light breeze of flowers, mostly rose, provides a clever and lively powdery feeling which blends and contrasts with the overall chypre-sque "darkness". It reminded me a bit of Eau de Givenchy among others, as it has no animalic or carnal notes - so it's not a "bitchy" dirty chypre - but it's rather played on flowers, citrus notes, aldehydes, benzoin and woody-mossy notes, with a bold balsamic feel all over. The mood is quite radiant overall, still somehow austere and sophisticated, but on the bright side. Not that original, though (Eau de Givenchy is just the first among many references), and perhaps just a little bit boring after a while... but well made for sure, pleasant, persistent and dense, and most of all modern enough to smell just like a "tribute" of woody chypres (and not a boring "rip-off"). This is one of those – good – scents that may appeal more to "non-fans" of perfumes, while many "aficionados" (like myself) may consider this a bit derivative.

7/10

***

E5 

E5 opens with an overwhelming blast of citrus notes and a sweet, slightly creamy base of vanillin, patchouli, sandalwood and an accord which smells like castoreum to me, although I guess it's more the result of sweet notes (both vanilla and sandalwood) blending with mossy-woody-musky ones. But that is the feeling, which overall quite reminded me at first of Ettore Bugatti pour Homme (the first version from 1993), that has a similar opening – but the main difference is that here it's all in stereo power, boosted on steroids. And sadly in my opinion it shows the same "defect" of Exotique from this same brand: it's so powerful that it has a bold, and to me frankly unbearable smell of lemon-flavoured floor cleaner. Here added with a sweet note, which somehow makes it even more sickening. It's not about a "feel", or a "nuance": it's all over, it's the main smell, and it's quite strong. I don't know if it was intended or it's just too much citrus aromachemicals, but it smells really that way. Perhaps fans of "daring" scents à la Humiecki & Graef may like this; to me it's just a big "no" from the beginning to the end (no evolution whatsoever).

4,5-5/10

***

Emilie

Simple but great. Emilie is an earthy and ambery patchouly with a subtle fruity-spicy accord, which provides a peculiar whiff of exotic and bittersweet warmth, sweetened by vanilla and perhaps tonka too. Really elegant, yet really natural, almost primitive, well enhancing the balsamic-earthy "hippie" personality of patchouli. Emilie is sharp and powerful, but really dry and so simple it's almost "basic", delivering a really peculiar and pleasant kind of organic and natural sense of refinement which - I don't know why - kind of reminds me of a certain type of "deconstructed" primitive-urban fashion (Doma, Saberi, Altieri etc.). It reminds me of fashion also because it brilliantly integrates the organic naturality of the materials in a modern, elegant and perhaps avantgarde composition style, "deconstructing" again the raw, almost archaic simplicity of materials and re-assembling it in modern ways. The composition is linear and quite "essential", yet it's not light: it's dense, smoky, earthy and dark. I don't get how it does it, but it manages to smell simple but totally fascinating, dry and austere yet cozy and warm. The drydown comprises more or less the same notes, just a bit drier and darker, with also a leathery-boozy feel all over, well contrasting with the powdery-ambery warmth. Great projection and long persistence too. One of the most interesting, pleasant and "different" patchouli around. Bravo Enrico!

8/10

***

Jolie

Jolie is a(nother...) gourmand scent centered on vanilla, powder, tonka notes, patchouli on the base, white musks and aldehydes. Not far from White Out from this same brand, just sweeter and more based on vanilla – less futuristic, and sadly, less fascinating too. Basically, not far as well from pretty much any other vanillic gourmand à la Montale, or Comptoir Sud, or even Angel itself. Not much else to say: bold projection and everlasting linear persistence. For gourmand lovers – for anyone else, me included, highly forgettable.

5,5-6/10


Maria Candida Gentile new line: "The flight of the Bumblebee" (2014)

I've tested the new three scents by Maria Candida Gentile which compose the series "The flight of the Bumblebee", all connected by the presence of a honey note. She presented them at Pitti Fragranze and a friend kindly handed me the samples (which sadly did not impress me that much). Here's my observations about them.



Syconium

Syconium is probably the best one among this new line by Gentile. It is basically a resinous, slightly milky scent with a sort of exotic allure all over (I honestly smell notes of tonka, almond and ginger, although they're not listed in the brand's website), comprising a heart of honey or beeswax, probably vanilla (dusty, rich, savoury), a solid accord of sweet yet realistic sandalwood and a green-floral and slightly fruity layer that makes the overall "spicy-gourmand" feel appear lighter and brighter. I guess the fig note is there, somewhere, although I do not get it well - perhaps both my "milky" and "fruity-green" references are due to that. Anyway, I like this scent because apart from the good quality of materials and the clever and balanced composition (which makes such an apparently "bold" blend smell sharp, clean, lively and dynamic), it is really evocative and nostalgic, making me think of cozy villages and rural fairs, with their smells and flavours of trees, plants, candies and sweets (gingerbread). Mediterranean but also Oriental in a way, simple and friendly, lively, graceful, much aromatic and pleasantly understated. Mellow and soft evolution. Well done!

7,5/10
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Kitrea

Kitrea is a(nother) Mediterranean-inspired ozonic scent which tries to make the calone note smell gentler and warmer by blending  it with floral notes, amber, resinous-spicy notes (honey, tonka) and a subtle yet pleasant, silky and fresh aromatic breeze of something like bergamot or orange leaves. I must admit that Maria Candida Gentile is basically the only brand out there which is able to deliver decent "sea" scents which smell nice and not too much metallic or artificially boring. She nailed it with Finisterre, and she nails it again with Kitrea. What I enjoy the most here is the work around the "sea" note, which is wrapped up in a warm, silky, fresh and really aromatic mixture of notes, that manage to conceal its "bad" nuances and enhance the more pleasant ones, making it look like a credible and evocative watercolors painting of the Mediterranean landscape (not that it's the first one doing it, though). I still don't like this family of scents, but among them, this is surely one of the best around.

7/10

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Leucò

Houston, we've a problem. Straight to the point: Leucò is inexplicably too light and faint on my skin. And by this I mean I had some serious issues in coming up with a review since I could barely smell "something" with quite a lot of effort. I applied it then reapplied it, and did the same the day after, still what I smelled was just an ultra-delicate accord of woods (cashmeran? That type of clean, silky woods), something slightly resinous and pollen-sweet (olibanum, and I guess honey), a really subtle floral-green note which may be tea, and an unperceivable hint of earthy white flowers - the tuberose, I presume, which I always considered one of the most slap-in-your-face floral notes around. Nothing more. And believe me: it was all *really* light, light like the drydown of an average EDT the day after you applied it. And all of this, which is basically like trying to catch noises in the desert, lasted for less than one hour, then it was completely gone. Clean skin. Now I respect Maria Candida Gentile too much (well, "enough") to judge this as a "no" scent, perhaps my sample was corrupted or I've issues in detecting some notes. I'll just leave it with a question mark waiting to read other comments about this scent (to see if it's me or what...).

?/10


Bogue Profumo

Two of their three scents (I still haven't clear whether and which of these are discontinued).

The nose behind both scents is Antonio Gardoni.



MAAI

MAAI opens as a great, stunningly powerful boozy-animalic-herbal chypre, a sudden jump on the time machine directly among the dirtiest and deepest chypres of the '70s and '80s – so many come to my mind I can't even name one. It's almost basically a prototype of that family of scents: leather, aldehydes, rose, carnation, herbs, castoreum, a slight gourmand undertone comprising earthy nuances of coffee, spices, a powdery-soapy accord with gentle notes of vanilla and chalky aldehydes. Nasty, austere, for virile men and bitchy ladies. Completely unoriginal, though: more than a tribute, or a "revision", or whatever "new version", it smells more like a perfect, impeccable and slightly pedantic copying exercise. It smells unbelievably compelling and "chypre" for real, which shows a great and careful effort in rebuilding notes which today can't be obtained and created "the old way" (like castoreum): still, taking all of this into account and acknowledging the fact that today's niche segment is so depressing it's much better to get this kind of stuff ("copycats of the past") than the rest, I don't get much the point of this scent, also considering the fact it's nice, which shall represent the "high" perfumery, the avant-garde, the élite. Simply because I would get myself an old, "real" skanky chypre, which by the way (aside from the rare and expensive ones) may probably cost quite less than this one, and smell more compelling, rich and "alive". But comparisons or personal choices aside, I admit MAAI smells quite good... for a while, at least. In fact, the other problem of MAAI, especially if compared again to older chypres, is the quality of materials and their duration: on my skin, after less than one hour, practically all the most interesting parts - the animalic, skanky stuff - are gone, and I remain with a generic, soapy-metallic herbal feel, still gloomy but quite toned down and frankly uninteresting. Once the facade collapses, you see it there was no building behind, like in the movies. So... when we'll run out of vintage chypres, I guess this will be the best we will be able to have, and I hope to be dead by then. For the moment, I can't care of MAAI that much.

6,5/10

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Cologne Reloaded

The opening of Cologne Reloaded is remarkably powerful and deep, basically a straightforward, "in-your-face" condensed anthology of masculine chypres. Bold notes of lavender, citrus, wood, sandalwood, carnation, musk, leather: a dry and austere blend exuding "manliness" and darkness, with a quite funny aftertaste of smoked ham at many points, but still evocative and majestic. The moldy-sweaty-indolic note of civet is remarkable as well, I doubt there's real civet in here (just a feeling) but nonetheless it's a really appreciable and well-built rendition of this "king of dirt" note with its urinous, fecal, savage nuances. On the very base, a hard, raw and dry woody accord, the antique woody closet protecting this precious whiff of vintage smells (and a piece of rotting bacon - that subtle smell of smoked ham which I guess being due to birch wood, won't go away for quite a while). Finally, the drydown comprises a balsamic-woody accord dirtened with metallic nuances, that I don't enjoy that much but which are part of the game as you largely smell them in vintages too, and a slightly unrelated smell of garlic (I guess due to the drydown of civet). Overall impression: on one side it quite reminds me of some works by O'Driù, mostly for the fougère-animalic notes with a contemporary twist, just far more "conventional" and without that kind of creative/artistic/provocative aim. On the other side, it obviously reminds me of dozens of masculine chypres, which Cologne Reloaded is a well-crafted, yet a bit derivative "rebuilding" of. Technically, the materials and the composition are outstanding, you can smell Gardoni put a lot of care and work in this scent: the notes are deep and faceted, and the composition is cleverly balanced and highly enjoyable. And I appreciate the idea of taking back the concept of "daring" (with bold animalic stuff) in the niche world, which has completely forgot what "to dare" means (devoting religiously instead on the concepts of "boredom", "repetition", "marketing"). So, in short, an undoubtedly well-made tribute to an era. But... still, the same I wrote for MAAI applies here too: as long as I'll have access to vintages, I'll prefer them to these well-crafted yet slightly pedantic "reconstructions".

(some press I read elsewhere about this: "vintage materials from the 40’s that were found in an old pharmaceutical laboratory"? Oh come on...)

7-7,5/10


The three scents I am wearing the most at the moment

Quite a self-explanatory title. I reviewed these on Fragrantica and Basenotes in the past months, but surprisingly not here yet.

And the winners are...

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Jil Sander Man by Jil Sander



Year: 2007
Nose: Thierry Wasser & Annick Menardo

A nice surprise for sure. I blind-bought this for 20 EUR at a sale, and I must say that if I could have tried this before, I'd have probably paid it even a bit more. Jil Sander Man is a discreet, refined, contemporary, a bit trendy but classy enough scent, basically a woody-leathery violet scent with vetiver and cedar ("pencil") notes and a slight smoky fog. All quite polished, satin and restrained, as you would expect from a mainstream scent with no "creative" pretenses – and I say this with a totally positive meaning, as being creative is surely not mandatory. A safe "office scent" for sure, but a particularly pleasant and well-made one, and if you ask me, also quite distinctive and memorable in its own discreet way. What strikes me the most here is the leather accord, which despite being quite delicate and almost unperceivable, smells unexpectedly elegant, rich, mellow and soft, polished and quiet but without smelling like pure, un-elaborated safraleine (as it happens so often with far more pricey scents). It smells materic, substantial, like a new pair of shoes, and its softness is cleverly enhanced by violet and resins, while woody-smoky notes of vetiver and cedar provide an elegant, manly, crisp darker counterpart, especially in the drydown, which is quite darker and woodier – always keeping it discreet and utterly pleasant (and well, with an unpleasant hint of norlimbanol, but just if you carefully look for it, so... nevermind!). A perfect undemanding yet elegant and compelling fragrance which I'd dare to consider a remarkable evolution of the concept of masculine "eau de cologne" - that type of unpretentious everyday fragrances good for any time, any situation and any mood.

7,5-8/10

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Gucci pour Homme by Gucci



Year: 2003
Nose: Michel Almairac

Gucci Pour Homme I opens with a really delicate, subtle, sheer, yet captivating and interesting appearance which definitely whispers "2000s" to me – the era of creative, elegant synthetics like Cuiron and Yohji Homme, with which in fact Gucci Pour Homme shares some slight and general affinity, although tending more towards a trendy elegance, less experimental and less avantgarde. I must start by saying also that I've never been a fan of Gucci (considering the other two "holy grails", Envy for Men and Rush Men, I find them barely decent/nice), so what follows is not really ruled by "hype" enthusiasm. Anyway: Gucci Pour Homme I is basically a sophisticated, spicy woody-incense scent, quite linear and simple, with ginger, cinnamon, a little tonka rounding the base notes, slight floral powdery notes, and obviously the two main characters – woods (cedar) and incense, that is to say a "pencil sharpener" effect achieved with a remarkable dose of Iso E Super. Clean, sharp, "brown" as its colour. Other notes I smell and I see in the composition are patchouli and a more-than-subtle leather note, after a while also a (synthetic) vetiver note, and a darker woody note which comprises a nice coffee nuance. I don't get the rest of the notes listed, but Gucci Pour Homme I is actually a really tight and dense scent, and it's quite hard to dissect it into notes and accords – so in other words I guess all the rest is there, somewhere, blended and conceived so well I can't even notice it. It must be the fact this scent was one of the first to have this approach to masculine scents, this postmodern clean, sharp, sophisticated elegance, understated yet totally unique, but it's undoubtedly, terribly good, with just... something more than dozens of others which subsequently imitated it. I can't explain why, but despite showing some rather common notes, you just feel terribly good and elegant wearing it, and you keep coming back to smell it. It may smell "generic" at first, but instead this modest, clean discretion hides a beautiful, perfectly executed blend of nuances and notes. I love this ability to "hide" the complexity behind discretion and whiteness. Nonetheless, I would not consider this the masterpiece it appears to be, and I personally find the prices quite insane. Just a good, almost great scent to grab in case of good deals.

8/10
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Black by Comme des Garçons 



Year: 2013
Nose: Guillaume Flavigny

Black opens with a black pepper explosion on dark woods, a licorice note synthetic yet earthy and powerful, perhaps vetiver, a hint of sheer leather and a heavy dose of Iso E Super, really concentrated and dense, to recreate CdG's signature "urban incense" feel. A good scent indeed, not challenging and quite versatile, but with a bold personality – artificial, but in a creative way, as CdG (sometimes) managed to do so well. Black and martial, woody and smoky, gloomy and sophisticated but "safe" and trendy enough to gain a broad appeal. The futuristic black brother of Fumerie Turque (or... the son of Bois d'ascèse, with more nuances – and far more pepper, which is quite the main character for hours.). Well done, and honestly priced too.

7,5-8/10

Update: just for the record, this grew incredibly on me to the point I finally bought it (I don't buy new scents so often). It has the same genius, versatile uniqueness of masterpieces like Yohji Homme - it smells so simple, so synthetic, yet so unique and addictive. I'd rate it 9/10 now!


Uèrmì Fragrance Collection - Part II

Some months ago I reviewed two scents from this new Italian niche line, now here's the remaining three ones. None of which is particularly less or more "meh" than the others. I've heard they've a new one out which is called "Latex" but I have no further information about that.



AB ± Cashmere

Year: 2014
Nose: Jean Jacques

The opening of Cashmere is extraordinarily similar to Scent Intense by Costume National, just a bit less "intense" and more greyish, but the notes are incredibly close (I have a bottle of the Intense and I just applied it on my other arm: the similarity is *really* close, especially initially and for quite a while). Basically Cashmere smells of sandalwood (a lot), cashmeran, a synthetic amber note (more like ambrette seeds or cetalox) and something fruity-floral on top, with the peculiar lively-aromatic juiciness of tea (Scent Intense comprises a tea leaves note, this one has osmanthus which is quite close to tea - not to insist on the comparison, but well...). All over this glossy, artificial creamy-woody-fruity concoction stands a light, grey, slightly dusty breeze of synthetic resinous incense. Say, something halfway Cuiron (apparently now that it's back in a different formulation we have to get used to say "the vintage" Cuiron), more or less any sandalwood scent (I thought of Geo Trumper's Sandalwood, for instance, but any average-cheap sandalwood works the same as reference) and as I said, Costume National's Scent Intense. After a while it becomes more a generic sandalwood scent on the sweet-creamy side, always also quite fruity. Pretty pointless to be honest, just get one of the scents I mentioned, which all cost a fraction of this (except Cuiron, obviously).

5/10

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OH ± Denim

Year: 2014
Nose: Philippe Bousseton

Denim opens with a clean blend of neroli, ylang, tuberose, a creamy base of white musks, with a tiny dense taste of red pepper. A soapy-powdery floral scent, creamy and "white", luminous, synthetic (therefore plain and chemically "sharp") but nonetheless somehow vibrant and nice, although not that captivating or intriguing – in other words, pleasant and cozy as an ylang-white musks soap gel. I honestly don't smell the oak moss note, the only thing which may be closer to it is just a canonical balmy-earthy base. I assume the connection to denim is cotton, as this delicate, soft, mellow floral scent surely does not connect with the "rawness" of jeans. Synthetic drydown, but pleasant. Not bad (meaning not stinky), but not worth its price.

5,5-6/10

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UR ± Silk

Year: 2014
Nose: Jean Jacques

Silk is a floral-green-fruity scent on the "white" side, fairly milky and soapy (white musks), with fresh and zesty green-citrus notes and a heart of synthetic fruits among which, most prominently, fig (again...). Overall, Silk is not particularly "sweet" as a gourmand, rather somehow liquid like a sun lotion, to which in fact it resembles quite a bit - so think of any other "beach cream" scent to get a rough idea (from Sun by Jil Sander to Shunkoin by Xerjoff and countless others). Still, among UèrMì line, it is probably the less dull: it smells minimal and simple as per concept of the line, but the notes smell somehow richer, denser, more realistic and nuanced than others. Not enough to avoid boredom, though: it smells richer than other UèrMì's, but in my opinion still quite plain, and despite seeming more realistic, it's still heavily synthetic, a side-effect you can smell quite clearly on the drydown - which carries that everlasting, plastic, annoying "fruity shampoo" feel of many fruity scents. Short longevity.

6/10


Requiescat: L'orpheline by Serge Lutens (2014)





L'orpheline ("the little orphan") starts with a blast of concentrated Iso E Super providing its smell halfway industrial vapors, synthetic incense, balsamic cedar. Which reminds me, again, of dozens of other scents which already elaborated this in every possible way, from Comme des Garçons to Escentric Molecules. The only additions here seem to be a peppery note and something sour-greenish, but basically it's a gigantic cloud of grey fog, purely synthetic, cold and kind of discomforting like waiting in a parking lot outside a refinery in the middle of nowhere. And that's it. The house which provided us with masterpieces like Ambre Sultan, Borneo 1834, Muscs Koublai Khan, seems now happy with this kind of stuff (this, L'eau froide, Laine de verre and so on). A brand which is starting to look like a sad little orphan indeed – let's get this Orpheline as a testament.

4/10


Resina by Oliver & Co. (2012)



I am starting to quite dig Oliver & Co. creations. Resina is perhaps Oliver's best scent so far among the ones I tested, as it brilliantly manages to present resins - which are surely not that uncommon in perfumery - in a different way, totally new and creative. It starts with a bold, dry, herbal accord which reminded me of some works by O'Driù, together with a warm, sticky and kind of "urinous-animalic" note (probably benzoin, but at first it smelled almost like castoreum to me), all surrounded by a fog of different resins offering an impressive harmony of nuances, from balsamic to rooty, from greenish to sweet, from sticky to balmy, to mossy, to earthy, even to "candied" and slightly floral-silky (labdanum) - a real chorus, basically, which transports you among woods, soil, earth, pine needles, small animals, branches, whiffs of fog.... Among all this, a "contemporary" breeze which to me smells like Iso E plus some synthetic amber, as it basically creates a sort of artificial dusty grey feel of "unscented incense" with a subtle salty note, which however perfectly fits the composition, reminding me of those contemporary architecture installments in natural environments.  So, basically for the first couple of hours Resina stays a grey-green-brownish scent with woods and resins, but also a sort of darker animalic note which comes and goes, and also a distinctive velvety and dusty feel, slightly sweet, which will eventually emerge better as the anisic note. Another note which emerges better as time passes is the coffee note, which blends with the anise note together providing a sort of earthy, sweet, dusty, warm and really aromatic feel all over, "warming up" and softening the scent as hours pass – which is a clever idea to make balsamic resins smell less boring (as they tend to do quite soon, in my opinion). The coffee note is probably the best I've ever found in perfumes so far: finally a genuine, raw, sour, earthy and dry roasted coffee beans note, and not some idiotic, creamy, sweet Starbucks coffee gourmand note. It's not the main note here, but after some 2-3 hours I could detect it quite clearly and sharply. The last phase of the evolution of the scent comprises a balsamic feel arising with increasing prominence, melting with the smells of woods, pines, coffee and resins - a balsamic feel halfway natural and resinous, and synthetic (the Iso E incense note, and also later on, a slight pungent feel of eugenol). The only reference I could think of is: a sort of intergalactic pro-nephew of Filles en Aiguilles with a hint of CdG Kyoto, a sweeter-silkier side (coffee and anise), more nuances, more colours, more exotism, and a genius subtle feel of pure futurism. An amazing scent which truly impressed me: it's solid, well-built, really dynamic, full of creativity and clever ideas, plus it's elegant and refined in its own peculiar way, not challenging at all. Yet i's a bit costly and I am not sure if it's worth the cost (up to you, in the end), all I can add is that it lasts for long, with a solid projection and a remarkably enjoyable evolution. Bravo Oliver!

8,5/10