La Collection Privée: Fève Delicieuse by Christian Dior (2015)



Nose: François Demachy

I wouldn’t say that Fève Delicieuse (“delicious bean”, or in North-Center Italian slang, “delicious d*ck”) smells completely horrid, but it’s really almost there. It doesn’t really “smell Dior”, and surely not “Collection Privée”. Not that the rest of the line was breath-taking, but Fève is basically nothing different quality-wise and overall concept-wise from the cheapest Oriental-gourmand ranges of fragrances and grooming products sold in drugstores or supermarkets. Stuff like Italian brands I coloniali, or Tesori d’Oriente - but way below Les Nereides or L’Erbolario, to give you a rough idea of how cheap this is. Imagine that kind of stuff blended with some sort of clumsy imitative Mugler-esque kind of “allure”, sort of echoing some A*Men flankers but without that consistency and playfulness (and they cost half of this anyway).

Basically Fève Delicieuse is a thick, annoyingly flat and cloyingly artificial Oriental-gourmand candy of vanilla, amber, tonka, cedar, powdery-caramel and spicy notes tinged with a tame hint of smoke and some pleasant sort of earthy-vegetable suble nuances, which are quite nondescript but help in lowering the diabete-inducing ratio of sweetness and represent the only sparkle of interest in this disgraceful bucket of dullness. There is basically no evolution and no particular “twists”, just a sticky slap of melted toffee candies laying on your skin, decreasing in power as hours pass – thus becoming more pleasant. Sweetness is the main and most feature of Fève Delicieuse: mediocre, cheap, unrealistic, alienating sweetness, truly comparable with any low-brow drugstore gourmand scent for teenagers. I was not the most enthusiastic fan of the rest of the “Collection Privée” collection apart from Leather Oud, but still I clearly got a sense of decent quality, complexity and craft among the others – or at least, some efforts for that. To this extent Fève Delicieuse is an astonishing ugly duckling among them (minus the happy ending), since it smells not only cheap, but also completely uninspired, simplistic, tired, a more than generic “déja-vu” with a crazy price tag and no reasons to exist. If you’re a fan of The Office US, then I’m Michael and this is my Toby.

4,5/10

O/E by Bogue (2015)



I’m very puzzled by the distance between the hype which has graced this brand from the very beginning of its journey into niche, and the actual quality of their fragrances I’ve tried so far. Both MAAI and Cologne Reloaded seemed to me some very dull and pedantic exercises around very classic structures, something I guess pretty much any nose working for any company anywhere between the 1950’s and the 1990’s would have been able to compose blindfolded; and now this, “O/E”. If on one hand it’s at least a bit more modern and more creative than the other two, on the other hand it kind of reinforces my conclusion that toying around classic structures seems really the main and only skill of Gardoni, or whoever is the nose behind Bogue fragrances. Because O/E smells horrid. A trainwreck. Pardon my French but it really is. Theoretically it would be a “citrus-green leather chypre”, so to speak, so imagine – on paper – a very bold citrus-green top accord built on a dark, herbal, even skanky and slightly powdery-vanillic foundation of woods, oakmoss, and some rusty tan leather.

The problem is that it seems the brief was then handed to a clueless janitor with the specific request of cutting costs and sourcing materials in his storage closet. The citrus-green top accord smells astonishingly cheap, acrid, artificial, flat and harsh, something way more suitable for cleaning tiles than scenting skin. And it’s just clumsily sticked as-is on a more than mediocre leathery chypre foundation, which smells no better than any robust pre-world war II drugstore aftershave did. Mennen quality, to get you an idea. The notes smell from bad to dull per se, and they’re significantly poorly blended, thrown one against the other like a toddler would do with his toy cars. All topped with spices, with the same grace (and purpose, ultimately) of someone rapidly throwing a handful of sand in your face to rob you and run away. I’ve nothing against modernity and “clashy” compositions, as long as there’s some talent behind them. Here I don’t really see any. It’s just noise, cheapness, itch. A decent idea completely gone wrong. Persistence is remarkable though, which is good if you’re into scrubbers; evolution is close to zero, just some lemon and herbs fading away and (surprise, surprise) synthetic cloves growing in presence together with some vanillin and cheap leather aromachemicals. Probably the nicest part, if compared the early abysmal stages. Nothing different from the drydown of any 1 dollar aftershave, but at least it’s wearable (at 180 times more the price). I wish the best to Bogue but seriously... not with this, really.

3/10

A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux (2008)


A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux is quite a nice little discovery I’ve made recently, together with the fact that Miller and Bertaux aren’t, as I imagined, the umpteenth irritating couple of 30-something niche hipsters dressed in white garbage bags, rather two eccentric, laid-back middle-aged beardy gents. I’m not crazy for the other scents of this brand I’ve tried, but A Quiet Morning works darn good instead. It’s very minimalistic, but for once, it doesn’t seem to rely to the same trite array of synthetic aromachemicals which are in fashion in the “minimalist” side of perfumery. In other words don’t expect just another ripoff of some Comme des Garçons/Andrea Maack-like stuff. Neither a dull citrusy or floral faint nonsense. This is a pretty different take on minimalism – for the better. It takes (well, it took me) a while to appreciate it and it’s probably easy to dismiss it at first, but the truth is that it manages to smell somehow very natural and breezy, yet amazingly modern in its transparent thinness, still keeping it not cold or blatantly synthetic. It creates instead a very peculiar “aura” of warm, sophisticated clean subtleness and lightness which contrary to many other cases, at no point becomes “dullness”. It’s actually a very substantial scent with some seriously enjoyable transitions and depth: it’s just filtered through clear, thin pastel glass, smelling rarefied and delicate, but so to speak, very robust “in spirit”. And briefly put, it doesn’t smell like anything else. 

The fragrance opens with a quite sharp yet weightless sort of bitter cedar, and actually oud-like note (emptied of any “animalic” dirt), quite woody, dry and spicy-medicinal, blended with a nose-tingling accord of ginger (or something similar to that) cumin and saffron, and a touch of rose – or, again, something similar to it, slightly floral and fresh-juicy. A tasty, dry, almost edgy spicy-woody-floral accord which soon starts to unravel a warmer heart: clean, soapy hints of sandalwood blend with a really enjoyable, very subtle yet crystal crisp accord comprising something like a honeyed saffron note paired with a microscopic drop of warm floral soap. I’ve mentioned the word “soap” a couple of times but don’t get me wrong; A Quiet Morning isn’t really a “soapy” scent, it just has some light hints of that (and this scent is all about shimmering, light “hints” of things). It’s dry, dusty and breezy, but has indeed a sort of slightly soapy-sweet and “juicy” base texture, mostly due to sandalwood and that touch of honeyed-floral spices. 

On the drydown it becomes more and more warm and a tad sweeter too, before turning again more dry and woody, with a slightly bolder presence of (good, seemingly quite real) sandalwood still lightly infused with a sort of medicinal cedar-oud note, and a simply, quiet but somehow distinctive floral-spicy accord – which after some time starts reminding me of tea a bit, as some herbal accents pop out. All still feeling very light, clean and “peaceful”, albeit slightly smokier and darker than the first hours. The overall effect is very nice and enjoyable, achieving a rather unique sort of “spicy-woody airiness” that I basically never found so far in fragrances. It’s indeed a “quiet morning” feeling - soft, clean, cozy. It’s a very light scent, but somehow it projects and persists well better than it seems, staying more “around you” than on skin – which is an effect I’ve often noted in many (good) sandalwood scents, so maybe it is due to that. Probably too light for many given all the “bombs” we’re used to today, but an unusual, fascinating little gem. 

7,5-8/10

Gentlemens' Eau de Toilette by James Bronnley




As a longtime fan of classic British horror movies produced by Hammer or Tigon, I’ve always lived with a sort of “mythical” imaginary of the British countryside - permanently foggy, rainy, unwelcoming, with small shabby cottages and ghastly antique boutiques where everyone looks like Peter Cushing or the Shadmock from “The Monster Club”. Well, this little gem by James Bronnley I acquired by a complete casual chance, is the closest, most vibrant thing to all that world I’ve ever smelled. It has them all: while being apparently a very traditional citrus-herbal “barbershop” cologne, it has an impressive feel of dusty-camphorous decadence, impeccably blended with a distinguished smell of powdery moss, grass, aromatic herbs, vetiver and a nondescript, quite bold sort of “damp wood” feel (I think due to moss again, infused with something resembling to chamomile or sunflower), and a top accord of greenish citrus and neroli – which isn’t really “zesty” or particularly fresh, rather more bitter, dry, slightly floral and creamy.

Besides being exceedingly compelling and elegant, the overall feel is just quite more bizarre and puzzling for me, and surely I wouldn’t really associate this fragrance to summer. It may be just me, but I get a very dense feel of grayness, of dusty “countryside” mossiness, definitely something more autumnal for me. Think of entering a shabby cottage and catch a whiff of the inside – the smells of musty dust, cracked damp furniture, dry soaps, old books, cider dripping out of a cracked glass, the dapper landlord lying murdered on the stairs. Basically what many would refer to as an “old man” fragrance – and by “old” I would mean here two, three thousands years old. It’s a spooky and amazingly fascinating foggy mist halfway archaic and funereal, it smells sophisticated and very natural, breezy yet almost oppressive, very distinguished and neat yet almost off-putting. Associations aside, as I said (and as others already said better than me) it’s basically an impeccable “barbershop” citrus-mossy classic eau de cologne with a powerful sense of dusty melancholy, projecting just fine and lasting for long with an utterly enjoyable herbal-powdery drydown, still bearing a decided neroli note. Shortly a British decadent take on 4711 and the likes. Surely quite mature and fairly austere, but truly classy and pleasant. A true little gem far more unique and distinctive than it may seem by the composition, definitely worth it if you’re into classic “gentleman’s” stuff.

8/10

Five by Bruno Fazzolari (2013)



Wow. The opening (and well, the evolution too) of Five by Fazzolari is just “wow”. Powerful, deep, extremely clear and completely unique, at least for my experience. A very innovative sort of classic “eau de cologne” with citrus, edgy green notes and a very light powdery-mossy base... but richly infused with a sort of thick, evocative salty-watery feel. I would use the term “ozonic” if it wasn’t so abused and associated to so much garbage. But it is indeed “ozonic” in the most truthful and genuine sense possible. I know what you may think then – “well, basically an ozonic citrus scent?”. Theoretically yes. But actually no, not really. That would be the “concept”, but the notes and the way they’re blended smell deeply different from what you may think and surely from any ozonic-fresh scent I know. Mostly because of the herbal-watery feel, which is truly puzzling. It’s mindblowing for how realistic, faceted, shimmering and deep it is, and for how it interacts with the other notes. It smells truly like damp seaweeds and wet rocks with a gentle uplifting herbal breeze – imagine that, impeccably blended with a more formal “eau de cologne” fragrance (so citrus and lavender, basically).

It’s actually hard for me to do this scent some justice only with words, but yes, probably thinking of a classic “eau de cologne” rich in citrus and powdery notes blended with the invigorating smell of a sunny late afternoon lying on a damp rock on some cozy Sardinian cove, may more or less suggest what Five is about. With a clarity, a richness and a persistence I’ve never, ever experienced with this genre of scents. Truly perfect.  Maybe Villoresi Uomo is a similar, and similarly amazing, unusual and rich Mediterranean interpretation of a classic citrus-herbal cologne, but lacking in what makes Five so special - that bold “iodine-watery” element  which is, well, just brilliant – and is actually the main vein of Five (I mean the main “accord”, it’s quite powerful). Again, please don’t imagine any “calone” thing, or some flat chemical “salty” garbage as in many “sea-salt” niche scent – this is lukewarm, organic, rich living sea water diluted with a distinguished vintage citrus-powdery cologne and a sort of somehow fitting metallic aftertaste (which paired with citrus and a subtle darker mossy base, kind of reminds me of Christopher Street by Charenton Macerations). Fantastic drydown, with the “sea” effect taking the stage over the “eau de cologne” part, leaving a trail of fresh herbs and marine water on your skin. Probably the most interesting, clever and well executed variation on a classic citrus-herbal scent I’ve ever tried, and surely the bes t “marine” fragrance on the market for me.

8,5-9/10

Années Folles by La Parfumerie Moderne (2015)

I was very eager to try this new creation by La Parfumerie Moderne, which is nearly the only new French niche act (of, say, the last 2-3 years) I personally consider worthy consideration and praise. And I surely appreciate the fact it took nearly two years for them to come up with a single new offering – in a time when niche brands launch a whole line once, sometimes even twice a year, that’s a true mirage. And well... once I sampled this, my expectations were decidedly exceeded. You can skip my boring detailed review and just trust me: Années Folles is absolutely great, probably the best offering by this brand, and in my opinion, one of the best works by Corticchiato. Années Folles surprised me for several reasons in fact, the first of which in chronological order being its breathtakingly rich opening. The fragrance starts with a truly sumptuous, yet actually rather simple structure of lavender (bold, deep, balsamic and “skanky” double-distilled lavender absolue) blended in a dusty-herbal frame of Mediterranean herbs and spices (thyme, nutmeg) and paired with a very clever and delightfully harmonic core of geranium and vetiver, which is quite subtle at first, but the drydown will do it justice. A veritable triumph of lavender (I think this was missing in Corticchiato’s portfolio?) and woody herbs supported by a gentle cascade of dusty resinous notes of tonka, patchouli and myrrh, vith a vague aftertaste of dry vanilla. 

So basically Années Folles opens as a creative, remarkably well-executed mix of a breezy Mediterranean green-woody cologne, a formal, dusty old-school French “barbershop” lavender-based fougère, and a tangy, warm Oriental spicy-ambery-resinous blend. Floral, herbal and resinous, melting together a classic French inspiration (powdery, soapy, at the same time kind of dirty traditional fougère notes) with a whiff of Mediterranean rawness following Corticchiato’s fondness for herbs and green notes, brilliantly warmed by a touch of Oriental aromatic and dusty spiciness (blending with the French part to echo a sort of “Guerlinade”). All in the most genuine quality, almost an “artisanal” quality of materials, but with a rather mannered appearance – a sort of sophisticated, distinguished, kind of melancholic look in which the “rawness” and the depth of lavender and of the Mediterranean and Oriental inspirations are elegantly tamed down, as if the center and the perspective of the fragrance still remain rooted in a certain French sense of discreet, slightly decadent “chic”. Mediterranean and Parisian at once, so to speak, all filtered in faded, dusty sepia tones. 

The evolution brilliantly unravels the vetiver heart, with a transition towards a powdery and smoky drydown tinged with masculine nuances of geranium and darker spices, and still a sharp hint of thyme. Some of the initial lavender-herbal “raw” greenness slowly fades away, bringing in a warmer, sort of talc-like and slightly sweet feel, reaching a (rather close to skin – maybe a tad too much for many) final drydown based on a very simple, delightfully cozy whiff of spicy-floral vetiver dusted with fine talc. Lavender remains as a “fil rouge” throughout the scent, with a shimmering transition from a bolder initial phase, to an ethereal, discreet powdery-soapy presence on the drydown.

So, to cut it short, Années Folles smells fairly “old school” on one side (a French digest ranging from Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsieur to Pierre Cardin pour Monsieur), and very modern on the other – the “modern” factor being an extremely fascinating weightless texture, which smells as much rich as crisp and somehow very breezy and almost thin, with a dark shade, or better say a “mist” feel. French, Mediterranean and Oriental inspirations are very effortlessly blended together in a sophisticated, natural, discreet blend with a very neat composition and a fantastic refined presence on skin. For some reasons this fragrance smells quite different from any other work by Corticchiato, both for the materials used (there’s a more massive natural feel here for me) and for the way its is composed and how it behaves on skin. I think this it is at once the most “old school” scent by him (except maybe for Musc Tonkin) and the most creative one, and it seems he really tried to use at best the natural behaviour of the materials with no “synthetic help” and no formal patterns – rather combining some of them. I really enjoy this fragrance, as it smells rich and fulfilling yet very approachable and actually simple to enjoy, extremely sophisticated but very cozy and versatile. As regards of the projection, Années Folles won’t be a bold “compliment getter” bomb as it soon sits rather close to skin, but that’s how most of elegant and quality scents perform. But well, I don’t want to start sounding servile or suspiciously enthusiastic, so... Just support the last good niche we have, don’t miss this.

8,5/10

Bois d'Iris by Van Cleef & Arpels (2009)




Nose: Emilie Coppermann

I must admit it: I’ve a penchant for iris fragrances. As long as they’re even just decent, I always like them a lot. It amazes me how versatile this material can be, and how many nuances it offers. It can smell warm and luscious, dusty and cold, “grey” and “red”, plushy and earthy, and always so refined and mysterious. Anyway, Bois d’Iris is surely a remarkable must for any fan of this material, probably even more than other more praised ones in my opinion. It explores the colder-dustier and more balsamic side of iris, pairing it with dry resins, warm amber, a very peculiar sort of “greyish”, massively incense-driven crisp woody note, and a sort of rarefied foggy pine-forest feel. So imagine a breezy, balsamic, woody and above all, dusty-powdery incense scent, completely unisex and actually quite dark somehow, or better say “cold”, peaceful yet somehow aloof. Almost “lunar”, I’d say. And extremely refined: the dustiness has some very fascinating sort of sparkling texture – “silver powder”, so to speak. Dior named a scent “Bois d’Argent”, but that name would be so better for  Bois d’Iris actually. By the way the two scents are indeed quite similar, but I prefer Bois d’Iris, for a couple of very simple features: less pretentious, more substantial.

What fascinates me about this scent is how it creates a shimmering, rarefied sort of “silver incense” vibe played on iris powder and resinous-balsamic woody notes, without using directly incense.  I mean, this fragrance smells quite incensey to me, but in a peculiar way, “incensey and not-incensey at once”. Maybe more than incense I should say “a whiff of cold, azure-grey smoky breeze scented with iris and luxury resins”, as it feels weightless and airy yet surprisingly substantial, balsamic, enveloping. Truly one of a kind, extremely enjoyable and fascinating. Shortly – if it wasn’t clear already – I really like this scent: it feels quality, it’s extremely sophisticated, it’s delicate but not light or too close to skin – just elegantly discreet.  I own other iris based scents, and this has definitely its own personality which makes it worth owning even if you think you’ve “smelled them all” when it comes to iris. Maybe a tad too expensive, but a true class act!

8/10

Boellis: Panama 1924 Millesimé (2010) and Fefé Dandy Napoletano (2015)

The nose for both is Maurizio Cerizza. Big fan of both Daytona and classic Panama 1924.

***

I surely agree with the reviews comparing Panama 1924 Millesimé with Cartier’s Déclaration, as the opening is very similar and plays more or less the same chords – spicy cardamom, elegant crisp musky woods, a whiff of masculine flowers (jasmine and carnation for me, or something similar to it, maybe rose too), saffron and some very light tangy citrus. But the similarity doesn’t really last long, though: from the very beginning in fact, Millesimé does have some more richness, smelling at once more refined and more natural than the Cartier’s. And a bit warmer too, thanks to musk and ambergris – the same, quite good dusty-salty musky ambergris base you get in nearly any scent produced by Profumitalia (Boellis and Hugh Parsons, just to name two brands they manage – just compare two random scents for each, you’ll smell the same base notes). 

During its evolution, and this is a quality product with some elegant and shimmering evolution, the initial spicy notes – except maybe saffron, which lasts longer – tone down progressively, leaving the stage to an exceedingly pleasant, classy and soothing floral-vetiver core accord still with some subtle pungent spicy edges, musk and some nondescript sort of “juicy” feel which I guess it’s that “tea” note – more a sort of a greenish rose for me, actually. Vetiver gets an increasingly prominent role, and it’s basically the star of the drydown, tinged with some floral nuances and a dusty musky-ambery base accord, which soon becomes a bit leathery too (I think it’s a side nuance of saffron).

So, basically another winner from Boellis in my book. As for the others from this brand, this is really nothing overly creative, and surely it does try to “emulate” a certain type of established crowdpleasers: but it does it with great class, great understatement and great quality. It feels just very mature, distinguished, yet informal and totally affable. To the point it, say, “exceeds” its masters and becomes actually better than them – so yes, for me this is quite better than Déclaration or similar scents. Same tones, same chords, better class and better quality. It has that same soapy “barbershop” vibe of other Boellis fragrances, that effortless Italian class, a shade of musky-amber refined melancholy well paired with some more luminous spicy-green nuances, and it’s just more fascinating, richer and more sophisticated than the Cartier’s in my opinion – also getting rid of that “sanitized” sort of artificial designer feel. The name is a bit pretentious perhaps as I don’t get the “millesimé” factor, but it’s surely recommended nonetheless.

7,5-8/10 


***



This new offering by Boellis is also probably their most creative one so far. The color of the packaging (bright bold orange) and the Neapolitan reference misled me at first, I thought this would have been some bright, lively fresh zesty scent, but the notes intrigued me as it seemed actually darker and rounder. And in fact it is, this is by far the darker and also quite more complex scent by this brand. But at the same time, probably the one I enjoy the less.

Basically Fefé is a patchouli-musk bomb with a massive dusty-powdery-woody feel, truly warm and aromatic (even “culinary” thanks to saffron), barely enlightened by some very subtle whiff of citrus greenness. Patchouli, musk and a dusty woody-ambergris accord sit at the core of this scent like big, bold, humid Stonehenge stones: imagine the smell of some antique, kind of musty Belle Epoque closet, with its earthy-powdery and woody nuances, and that nondescript smell of damp dust and old abandoned garments. Refined and melancholic at once, and I surely get the reference to a Neapolitan dandy – a quite evocative and quality portrait of the Italian heritage of laid-back dapper gents of the early Nineteenth century. Or well, of any gentleman of that era, and this is the smell you still can get in some very old boutiques (dusty barbershop boutiques, again... you can’t really say Boellis hasn’t a very clear “fil rouge” throughout their offerings).

The scent is quite complex for me, as the way the notes interact smells quite new to me, but at the same time it doesn’t evolve that much, so that’s pretty much it – patchouli, musk, amber, earthy-powdery nuances, a dusty sort of “damp stones” feel mixed with a soapy vibe. It smells good, but well... quite a bit cloying after a while, honestly. Not sure if that’s intended, but it does seem a bit static, and given the boldness of the notes and their dusty-damp feel, you would probably prefer it to evolve a bit, to “open” somehow, to lose some weight and strength as it feels quite thick and almost haunting after a while. Or just a bit boring. Nonetheless the smell per se is very good, so if you like it or if you’re looking for an unusual patchouli-powdery scent, then it’s a deal. I do like it, but it’s really not an “everyday scent” or something I’d want to reach often.

6,5-7/10  



A*Men Pure Leather by Thierry Mugler (2012)


Well, this is an interesting fragrance with an interestingly polarizing reception among fragrance aficionados. My opinion on this is that it’s very nice. Nice and fascinating, and quite unique too, in its own subtle way. Does it smell like A*Men? Yes, it does, it’s 90% identical - it’s a flanker, after all. But still, it has some key features that makes it not redundant if you like or already own classic A*Men. First of all, it smells as a washed, lighter version of it; less challenging to pull off, more dry, kind of darker, surely more simple. A “thinned out” A*Men, so to speak – and that’s nice for me, since A*Men can get sometimes tough and overwhelming to wear. Second, contrary to other reviewers, I do get very clearly the leather facet here, and I really like it. I expected something different, a duller and more mainstream leather accord glued to A*Men like a drugstore patch, while I think that leather here is processed in a very creative and quite classy way.

More than a specific note, in fact, it actually really feels like if they gave A*Men a “polished leather look”, an overall “leather treatment” infusing it with a subtle, yet robust smell of new, tar-like, oddly sweetish polished leather. Obviously the “leather infusion” mentioned on the box is marketing nonsense (and knowing Mugler’s aesthetics, chances are it’s subtly ironic), but still I admit that that’s the effect: I think this does really smell like A*Men drenched in leather. And again, I must stress that for me the leather feel here is quite realistic, unusual and surprisingly well put together. Synthetic, sure, but that’s the smell of most of todays’ leather goods treated with chemical agents. And I guess that many people don’t get the leather facet because they’re looking for some more common, standard leather note, while here leather is kind of “all over” – it’s the ambiance, the frame itself, so you’ve to, say, “zoom out” and look at the entirety of the scent to get it. That’s my reading of this scent. Besides the all-over leather effect, the rest is quite A*Men with no particular variations except for a fresher and thinner look – if you aren’t familiar with that masterpiece, then imagine a bizarre musky-minty-soapy gourmand bomb with lavender, resins, tonka, fresh edges and a dark patchouli-cocoa base. Imagine that, sprayed on a new pair of leather sneakers.

The more I wear this clever pastiche, the more I like it, and I think the subtle yet very competent and creative leather variation is remarkable, and I’m afraid quite underrated (or even more sadly, just snobbed because “it’s Mugler”). If you see it with an “out of the box” approach, and take it as the crazy gourmand oddball drenched in subtle leather that it is, then it’s more valuable and creative than the majority of “avantgarde” niche leathers. It has some cheap facets, but they’re fun – and so is this scent, nothing particularly refined and probably not that versatile too, but fun, nice and unusual. Totally remarkable for the price.

7,5/10

Soul by Costume National (2015)



Nose: Dominique Ropion

This new addition to Costume National’s fragrances range represents the unnecessary confirmation that the only good Costume National scents ever made where the early couple of ones composed by Bruyère – 21 and Scent Intense. It almost seems the guys at Costume National share this feeling as well, since Soul smells basically like an unneeded rewriting of Scent Intense crossed with influences from some of those contemporary Middle East cheap brands which are quite invading the market lately – brands like Arabian Oud, Lattafa, Swiss Arabian and countless of similar ones, with their nuclear, and often sweetish spicy-smoky oud and/or leather blends. Soul is for me exactly halfway all of that, and I wonder why they hired some renowned nose like Ropion for such an uninspired, clerical copy-and-paste job. Soul definitely keeps Scent Intense’s peculiar bone structure of powerful, sort of dry and extremely synthetic amber-musk-fruity notes, and boringly crosses it with a smoky praline of vanilla and artificial, sort of medicinal-nutty oud with a dark shade of leathery patchouli and a greyish salty feel of ambergris. The result is basically “Scent Intense Oud & Patchouli” with a whiff of M7’s trademark ambery-medicinal oud.

Is it any good? Well, sort of. If you like Scent Intense, then that’s still way above this, as it smells richer, more quality and more fascinatingly complex, and also kind of more focused; if you don’t care for it, then Soul may be a slightly more peculiar than usual sort of “futuristic”, androgynous, dirty yet sort of “aseptic” take on oud and synthetic leather with an initially stomach-piercing galore of powdery-musky vanilla tinged with a nondescript candy vibe. A powerful sweetish musky candy with a drop of cheap smoky oud & patchouli, and an everlasting artificial and linear drydown... sounds familiar, eh? Nothing that probably some Middle Eastern drugstore brand isn’t already doing for ten dollars a bottle. Not abysmal, but go for Scent Intense anyway.

6-6,5/10

Panama 1924 by Boellis



Nose: Maurizio Cerizza (not sure)

Well, I’m impressed. Not that anyone should care, but I just realised that Boellis (or Panama 1924, I still have not clear which is the brand name of this line precisely) is perhaps my favourite Italian niche house. First because – pardon the pun - it’s out of Italian niche: out of tradeshows, promotional blog whoring, demented marketing ploys, absurd pricing range. Second because their products are truly good, and each of them really matches my tastes. I’m already a big fan of Panama 1924 Daytona, which quite grew on me over time, but I was still missing the classic Panama 1924; now that I tried it, I can’t say nothing but good things about this as well. A truly rich, solid and compelling tobacco-lavender “barbershop” scent with a veritable material feel of warm, vanillic ambery-powdery dustiness, perfectly supported by a really natural accord of something similar to a touch of anisic herbs, hay (both may be just nuances of lavender, though) and a gentle mossy-patchouli shade on the very base, briefly refreshed by an initial burst of refined, lukewarm and tea-like bergamot notes.

That’s it; mostly a tobacco-powdery scent, shortly, with a remarkably refined feel of dusty natural warmth. Basically something blending Odori Tabacco, several powdery scents for men (from Le Male to Jaipur Homme), anisic-lavender fougères from Azzaro pour Homme on, and a plain natural shaving soap bar. Panama 1924 does brilliantly evoke the shabby, yet refined atmosphere of a typical Italian old-school barber shop – which in the end, is Boellis’ (true and actual) heritage. The smell of soaps, powder, talc, antique woods, linen jackets with dusky tobacco in their inner pockets, all smoothened by a whiff of sweet notes (thus evoking the other pillar of the Italian, and specifically Neapolitan culture – food). All with the perfect sillage and a long, pleasant, non-artificial persistence.

I find this scent as much simple as amazing, I think it’s really well blended, with quality ingredients, and whoever composed this had very clear in mind what to take inspiration from, and for what type of audience. Nothing overly creative, nothing “luxury”, just nonchalantly classy and extremely enjoyable. A cozy little essay of “sprezzatura” in a bottle worth every penny of its price. Recommended.

8-8,5/10

Habit Rouge Dress Code by Guerlain (2015)



Nose: Thierry Wasser

By far the best novelty of 2015 for me, even if the year hasn’t ended yet. I must start by saying that I am not crazy for classic Habit Rouge; I really respect and appreciate it, but I like it really mildly – for no specific reasons, it just never completely “clicked” for me. Dress Code instead, I fell in love with it from the very first sniff, and I wouldn’t know where to start with to motivate why. It smells at once really complex, really quality, completely new for me yet robustly rooted into the classic heritage at the same time (starting from Habit Rouge itself), and just tremendously good. Basically, I think Dress Code may basically and inaccurately be described as a sort of remarkably inspired blend which brilliantly mixes Habit Rouge, the Guerlain Homme line (notably Intense), several classic French masterworks like Mouchoir de Monsieur or Monsieur de Givenchy, an apparently unrelated contemporary designer vein (mostly for a subtle and sharp smoky-woody base layer) and a tiny bit of vintage Hermès Bel Ami too, especially the way leather gets a floral-sweet treatment there. There’s some echoes of Tom Ford Noir too for me, which was however a clear tribute to Guerlain’s classics, so here we are again. There’s a lot going on here, and yet it is all so well blended it’s really hard (and eventually pointless) to “read” it.

Anyway, shortly Dress Code opens with a fresh and soapy bergamot-rose-barbershop accord with some quality vanilla, a sprinkle of mild brownish spices (cloves and nutmeg above all, as a distant whiff of a classic Bay Rum) and a dry, sort of incense-infused leather woody base, all tinged with a really peculiar and quite prominent sort of really sophisticated dusty powdery-gourmand feel of what I think Guerlain calls “praline” here – which is basically a gentle cascade of delightful vanillic powder with a truly clever sort of spicy and “toasted” aftertaste, perfectly keeping the “autumnal” feel of Habit Rouge and balancing the sweetness. I expected something more cloying, while this sweet accord is really subtle and mannered, and yet decidedly there.

At first, Dress Code is quite uplifting, even fresh and well more Oriental than classic Habit Rouge, also pleasantly “barbershop-clean”, showing some slight boozy nuances as well – hence my reference to Guerlain Homme Intense; that same sort of distinguished woody-herbal booziness is partially here too (and actually, with a hint of 2003 Gucci pour Homme’s incense woodiness as well) just evolving then under a completely different light. A darker, more luscious, dirtier and, say, “ambiguously sweeter” light – where the ambiguity lies in the Frenchies’ tradermark fondness for sweetness and dirtiness . The evolution is truly dynamic and shimmering, and is in fact all about a descent into a dandy’s closet; powder, nondescript sweet dust, dead flowers, a whiff of salty antique woods (maybe vetiver), luxury leather (true luxury: tanned, rich, comforting, really smooth but sharp – paired with spices, floral notes and a hint of sweetness, here’s why I mentioned vintage Bel Ami). The freshness goes almost entirely away soon except for a hint of citrus, leather becomes earthier and saltier, a gust of warm wind spreads the dirty, spicy, sweet powder all over. And still, Dress Code remains inexplicably gentle, distinguished and almost weightless. This scent is quite all about that - sweet but dark, innocently powdery and dirty at once, mature and really sophisticated yet sort of light and youthful, comprising a whole timelapse over Guerlain’s history in a whiff. It’s quite hard for me to describe this fragrance and its evolution properly, as lots of nuances and notes smell really new to me (better say, the way they are presented and how they evolve); but well, you can just expect a brilliant, refined, cozy combination of classic and contemporary bearing a lot of echoes of stuff you know (more or less the names I mentioned so far), and yet smelling like nothing else. The evolution is really great, and the performance is really fine – this scent is quite more discreet than it may seem from the composition, but it’s not ephemeral at all.

I think Wasser did a truly remarkable job in bringing Guerlain’s DNA and specifically Habit Rouge autumnal formal and “dirty” elegance under a completely new light – not a “designer” light, not a “niche” light, just really new and out of boundaries and definitions, as if he almost tried to get rid of any formal training and just compose “out of the box” to create something quality and new yet solidly rooted into the past, avoiding any cliché. And he surely succeeded for me. Superb.

9/10

Collection L'Homme: Thé Brun by Jean-Charles Brosseau



Nose: Pierre Bourdon
Year: 2005

What an odd scent this is. At first, Thé Brun smells actually quite as a faithful, vibrant, extremely pleasant representation of some traditional Chinese tea (I thought of the Oolong, too). Genuine dark brown leaves out of the bag. Quite a complex and really vivid structure of earthy, pungent, dry nuances blended with an uplifting fruity-herbal-balsamic heart and some really mild sweet-vanillic-floral nuances. Now, the odd part is that to my nose there’s at least two other major accords which smell at the same time perfect, and completely random; a really bold, fairly cheap and almost acrid sort of musk-hedione base (sort of a damp, grassy, slightly milky and extremely musky accord with a hint of pungent fruitiness) and a greyish, ashy-rubbery note, quite synthetic as well, the same exact kind of ashy-mossy rubberiness found in Bulgari Black, or in several works by Rasquinet (notably the MiN NY line, or Bois d’ascèse). It’s a dark grey, dusty, salty yet slightly camphorous feel similar to ambergris, which for some reasons, goes just perfectly with the brighter earthy-herbal tea heart of the fragrance and the sort of “lactonic” musky-green accord - which is quite bold as well, with also nuances of tarragon and bamboo (and some woods too, but I can’t detect them in detail). I know it may be hard to imagine how Thé Brun smells overall, and in fact it’s quite a unique and complex blend – not necessarily a good thing (but well, it kind of is here).

So basically, for me Thé Brun smells initially and for quite a while, like a sort of intricated hybrid between something like O de Lancome pour Homme and something like Bulgari Black, both gravitating around a grey-brownish balsamic heart of woody-earthy dry tea leaves. Quite fascinating overall, honestly a bit screechy but for some reasons, with a really peculiar and overall fascinating feel of “something smells wrong, but I can’t stop sniffing it” (most surely it’s the fruity nuances meeting the rubbery-ashy ones causing that). It feels like a bizarre mosaic of diverse inspirations – the archaic heritage of Oriental tea, the smell of a moldy grass field under the rain, and a whole range of artificial smells of rubber, ash, dirt, damp wood, wet concrete. So well, now that I think of it, it may make sense to connect these inspirations and imagine a shabby suburban teahouse in some desolated Chinese metropolitan district. Somewhere you can still drink an excellent cup of tea, just not in a postcard setting, but rather sitting in front of a crippled window looking at uncultivated grass bushes erupting out of an abandoned parking lot. I’m not entirely sure whether Brosseau wanted to evoke such a post-communist forlorn atmosphere, but it’s still better than the usual Oriental clichés in perfumery.

Anyway, back to the actual smell: pretty linear for a while, until the grassy-herbal-tea heart progressively vanishes and on the other hand, the ashy-musky base becomes warmer, gentler, in a way absorbing the top notes as if the whole tea-herbal stuff evolves and disappears as a result of an “infusion” among the base notes. At this time some of the screechy “oddness” is gone, and Thé Brun gets surprisingly refined and soothing, with a discreet smoky-musky presence with a sprinkle of amber yet still a bit grassy and balsamic, lasting quite long and projecting just fine.

I’m not entirely sold, but this is surely quite worthy a sniff.

7-7,5/10

Extract of Mysore Sandalwood by Crabtree & Evelyn (1970)



I was really eager to put my hands on this mythical vintage “Extract of Mysore Sandalwood” by Crabtree & Evelyn, since it is apparently considered among the most vibrant and truthul representations of authentic Mysore sandalwood in perfumery, as it shall contain some. Now, I am not an expert of sandalwood, so I can’t comment on the degree of authenticity and quality of sandalwood here; all I can say is that this fragrance smells terrific, period. Easily the best scent I’ve ever smelled among the ones containing “sandalwood” in their name. It’s just magic, and it truly makes you consider other sandalwood scents in perspective.

At first, there’s a tremendous blast of balsamic, slightly anisic and creamy sandalwood with a drop of citrus and an impressive “material” woody texture, joined by a really peculiar sort of earthy, almost ashy and even slightly fecal undertone; it’s truly subtle, but it’s there, creating a really vibrant dark and organic shade blending with the luminous, soapy, balmy uplifting creaminess of this wood. It feels like an instant Polaroid of a sandalwood plantation, which I’ve never even saw in pictures, so it’s just my imagination speaking - but that’s the beauty of fragrances. It’s soapy and exotically sweet, but now I see what “synthetic” means in relation to sandalwood – it’s a whole different kind of sweet soapiness the one you smell here. It’s just natural, deep, imperfect. It doesn’t pierce your nose or go right into your stomach, it’s not musk-driven, it doesn’t smell like laundry machines or cheap candies. It’s the kind of sophisticated, weightless woody sweetness you maybe got in the drydown of some vintage masculine scents like Egoiste or Tiffany for Men, just in a free, pure, complete and more “amplified” form here.

The evolution is quite dynamic then, and I guess that’s another key point of difference from any synthetic sandalwood scent. And again, it just feels as the natural course of an “organic” smell – it becomes warmer, dustier, drier, lighter too but it doesn’t entirely fade away. It just gently sits on skin with a peaceful, yet intricated harmony of soapiness, creaminess, dry woodiness, and a whole range of “rural” nuances coming and going – from hay, to indolic nuances. It gets darker and smokier for a while at first, then progressively breezier and brighter, and also simpler, more purely soapy and balmy. More and more discreet as well as time passes, but long lasting. Finally, just a note: don’t expect anything complex though, as this is a truly simple fragrance. Lots of nuances,but still gravitating around almost a single accord. Outstandingly, sumptuously, richly simple and quintessential, if you get what I mean, easy to love like a piece of perfect blue sky.

So overall, a true gem in my opinion. I must say though that the subsequent “Sandalwood” which Crabtree and Evelyn made in 2004 (discontinued as well, I think, but easier to get) is a truly remarkable and successful effort of bringing back some of these feelings and nuances of the original Extract, in a synthetic sandalwood fragrance. Some, if not most part of the magic is gone, and indeed you get a flatter, more artificial texture, but the final smell is amazingly close to this. The Extract is still worth its money in my opinion, since besides the smell there’s just a fantastic “experience” flowing out the bottle, but “Sandalwood” comes just right after with its tolerable compromises on quality. I own both and despite they smell similar, they don’t feel redundant.

9/10

Brioni by Brioni (2014)



Nose: Raymond Matts

So, finally I was able to try this expensive, sought-after (and discontinued?) “gem”. I’m usually quite a fan of tailors/bespoke brands fragrances, they often seem to put some more budget and care in their products, and seem able to infuse them with some true sense of class and discreet elegance contrary to many other designers - not to mention niche. To this extent, Brioni is not an exception and would be surely worthy a normal high-end designer price. Is it worthy *that* price I see on eBay and online shops now? Absolutely no. Not at all. It’s as much nice as far from being particularly memorable from any extent. It is basically a really decent, refined masculine citrus-woody fragrance with some smoke, cedar, lavender, some balsamic and crisp herbs and spices – shortly, a really classic citrus-green cologne with a classy Mediterranean vibe and a subtle woody-soapy bone-structure. A competent, classic “sunny” scent with some smoky wood and an above-average refined presentation. But still, really nothing more than a good designer, something dozens of other fragrances are as well – either designers, or niche’s “designer in disguise”. From some Hermès, to some Dior (Eau Sauvage line in particular) to some recent Guerlain (Coriolan meets Homme L’Eau Boisée), to Boellis, with a sprinkle of Kenzo too - bearing in mind you can almost get one for each, at the total price of a single Brioni Eau de Toilette. Unremarkably solid, with a completely insane price tag.

6,5/10

Fate Man by Amouage (2013)



Nose: Karine Vinchon-Spehner

To my supercilious nose, Fate Man reveals itself from the very first minutes as one of the dullest and cheapest Amouage offerings for men, and sadly the evolution does nothing but reinforcing this impression. The opening is pretty much a mathematical layering of a ton of drugstore cumin with a fairly cheap Iso E-infused cedar-vetiver-guaiacol accord (we’re in the same territory of countless inexpensive woody scents here; I thought of Chopard Noble Cedar, Azzaro Visit or La Martina Secret Wood, but options are really infinite) and a darker, thicker shade clumsily emulating some favourite chords of several “dark Oriental” niche scents of the past years – an agreeable, albeit derivative and a bit nondescript blend of musk, rough spices and smoky balsamic-resinous notes (labdanum, mostly) with a sort boozy-tobacco flower note (immortelle – think of Histoires de Parfums’ 1740) tinted with a sort of oily licorice vibe and a robust base of something like birch tar with a hint of dry oud. So basically a moody Oriental rework of a conventional woody scent. All finally wrapped together with a polished, dry texture, quite on the dark-spicy side, and sadly (if that wasn’t clear enough) quite cheap too for me. By “cheap” I mean that I personally don’t get anything different quality-wise from several inexpensive designer woody scents, the woody notes smell clearly “average” with no nuances or richness or whatever may indicate a sign of a higher quality; and I also don’t get any other added value – nothing creative, or particularly refined. No surprises during the evolution as well. A really bland Oriental dry woody scent with a dark shade and a bit more thickness than usual in the unsuccessful attempt to bring Fate closer to a niche quality (if that ever existed). Still something you’ve to keep smelling to remember how it smells. It’s nice, but a true joke for the price.

5/10

Olympios by Missoni (1994)




I’ve been quite on a “vintage Fahrenheit craze” lately, since I’ve been finally able to stock a decent pile of backups of it, and I wore it quite often. Besides granting me hours of sinful delight, that helped me also in assessing something I wanted to check since long time –if, and how much Olympios Missoni is actually similar to vintage Fahrenheit. I own and quite like Olympios since a couple of years, and before getting some bottles lately, I only vaguely remembered vintage Fahrenheit, so I was unsure of what to think about the relationship between the two. But I was quite sure that as other reviewers mentioned, the two fragrances were quite similar. Well in fact, now that I can compare them, they are indeed. The bone-structure is clearly the same: violet, herbs, cedar, powdery flowers, a hint of leather, moss, altogether creating a similar sort of “dark terpenic violet” atmosphere.

Still, there is enough difference to avoid any redundancy (well, sort of); Fahrenheit is decidedly more powdery, gassier and darker, and way more rich and complex, while Olympios is quite more simple, more herbal, drier and quite more bitter too, ultimately a bit cheaper as well. It feels like taking inspiration from the general genius structure of Fahrenheit, bringing it on an “easier” territory, both notes-wise and quality-wise. Nonetheless I would consider it a little true keeper, as it smells basically like a sort of bitter-herbal flanker of vintage Fahrenheit, both fresher and drier at once. I wouldn’t ever recommend this as a replacement for the immense, out-of-this-world intricated beauty of vintage Fahrenheit, but it’s surely a little fascinating gem that would make a perfect “discarded flanker” of it.

7,5/10

Pour Homme by Dolce & Gabbana (1994)



Nose: Max Gavarry

I don’t know how Pour Homme smells today, but I recently acquired an early Euroitalia bottle of this (mostly for nostalgia, as I wore this fragrance in the Nineties, without even loving it that much back then) and all I can say is that it smells, well, really good. Not exciting, not particularly fascinating... but just totally, really good. Almost astonishingly good. All I get is lavender, tobacco, a drop of creamy, slightly orange-infused citrus and a mellow, agreeably sweet base of musk, vetiver and tonka, initially briefly refreshed by a sort of Mediterranean herbal-tea accord in which I think I get mostly sage and something like thyme paired with, well, “something” that reminds me of juicy bittersweet black tea (that may be due to tobacco, though; fresh grounded tobacco has often a tea-like aroma).

The notes may sound a bit generic, while the result is inexplicably complex, totally unique and recognizable, way more than it may seem by reading the composition. In fact I can’t really think of anything similar to this, maybe some facets of vintage Dreamer by Versace for the same tobacco-musk-lavender “clean and warm” base, or some other tobacco designer scents, but that’s a long shot in any case since there’s quite something more – and mostly better – going on in Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme. I guess this uniqueness is due to the way musk, tobacco, tonka and citrus interact, they create “something” really comforting, clean (musk and lavender), slightly sweet and warm (tonka and tobacco, plus that “tea” accord I mentioned above) but with a really classy touch of tart, herbal citrus freshness, which altogether create an uplifting sense of confidence, affability and informality with a sultry shade of class, a perfect balance I rarely found in other fragrances. Guess this is an example of how a skillful, eclectic and mature composition smells like. Maybe uncreative, but not anything has to (try to...) be creative. Truly a soothing classy sillage with just the right hint of clean, smoothly modern and understated “genericness” which makes this fragrance a really enjoyable and solid everyday option, with a particular “youthful” vibe. Quite linear, but if something smells this nice, that’s just a plus.

Given the number of negative reviews I read about Pour Homme I assume that today it smells probably a bit more synthetic and harsh than it used to, and I can really believe that since the quality of Euroitalia works of the Eighties/Nineties was quite much higher if compared to today’s standards among designers – not to mention Dolce & Gabbana usual standards, which make Pour Homme even more a unique standout. The early Made in Italy version surely has some soapy-synthetic feel especially on the musky-lavender notes, but overall it has an undisputable solid quality and a remarkably rich, fulfilling and breezy texture that makes it really worthy a sniff – if not a blind purchase in case of good deals (way more than the nice albeit totally overrated By Man in my opinion, to mention the only other masculine Dolce & Gabbana scent worth some care).

7,5-8/10

Maxim's pour Homme by Maxim's (1988)



This is for me one of those cases where I am really happy and thankful that sites like Basenotes exist. If it wasn’t for the positive raving reviews here, I would have never cared for this scent – an obscure name evoking some generic seedy nightclub (sorry, I didn’t think of “that” Maxim’s at first), a rather unappealing box, very little information except for the fact that this was made by Pierre Cardin (meh...) in collaboration with a Parisian restaurant – an anecdote which wouldn’t really be enough to make me intrigued about this fragrance. If any, it would have instead almost an off-putting effect on me. Well anyway, once I read the reviews I thought it was maybe worthy a blind buy instead. I found a really cheap “no barcode” bottle of this and – bingo! I can’t say better what other reviewers already wrote. Just believe them, and believe the (still quite limited) hype.

Maxim’s homme is an amazing hell of a keeper, a fantastic and sophisticated leather chypre which should sit if not next, then just a short step below some of the finest leather chypres of all times, from vintage Or Black to vintage Bel Ami or Moschino pour Homme. The structure is pretty traditional, and others have already analyzed it, so there’s no point in telling how it smells again in detail... it’s just an impeccable, rich, elegant and truly high-quality balsamic woody-leather scent with a really enjoyable whiff of smoky, and almost honeyed-candied floral notes, a bit like in Bel Ami – that kind of dark, austere and distinguished “manly” leather with a hint of balsamic-powdery smooth softness. At first it smells more about pine needless and dry woods, but once it warms a bit, the magic happens and Maxim’s unravels a truly delightful, crisp and brilliant harmony of leather, tobacco, “masculine” flowers, balsamic woods, a subtle musky base of mossy dirt.

I think the balance between the darker side with leather, tobacco and austere woods, and the balsamic-floral side with a really peculiar sort of dusty-sweet resinous texture and a nondescript, yet charming musty aftertaste, is truly remarkable and one of a kind. It’s simple, but so finely tuned it smells more unique than it may seem. Plus the quality is overall ridiculously good, there is an amazing feel of clarity and sultry depth which one would never imagine coming out from something so inexpensive and, say, visually cheap. Another obscure, totally good and totally neglected vintage cheapo which smells a bit similar to this came to my mind, - Bally Masculin, but Maxim’s seems showing clearly a higher quality. This could have really easily been some Hermès, Givenchy or Guerlain. Same richness, same elegance halfway formal and effortless, same vibrancy and same uniqueness of most of their finest vintage offerings for men. I’ve read on the Internet that this was an early work by Jean Claude Ellena, and well, I can really believe that. Simply great.

8,5-9/10 

Terre d'Iris by Miller Harris (2005)

Niche still works, sometimes.




Nose: Lyn Harris

Terre d’Iris is easily one of the most compelling and fascinating fragrances by this brand among the ones I have tried so far – a brand which despite its (few) highs and (more frequent) lows, I respect overall. Being a big fan of iris – not necessarily knowledgeable about it, but surely a fan, I am quite picky with iris-based fragrances, and Terre d’Iris, well... it is surely a true keeper for me, for a very reasonable couple of reasons: it smells really good to my nose, and quite unique to my knowledge. It opens in fact as a charming, immediately competent, fascinatingly moody take on iris built on a really inspired, smooth and well-balanced contrast between fresh, tangy herbal notes of lemon, bergamot and sharp, tasty Mediterranean herbs with a fruity drop of orange, and a whole sort of cloudy, damp musky-woody base with patchouli, vetiver and a really subtle, yet perceivable feel of, say, musty mossiness (if you inspire with some strength you get a fantastic distant whiff of bracing, somehow raw yet comforting stale-barn rural nuances provided by – I guess – patchouli infused with oakmoss, that fit marvelously the mood of this composition).

Between these two kind of “opposites” lies her graceful majesty – iris, with a strong accent on its earthy-leafy nuances. Nothing “lipstick”, just a touch of austere yet delicate rooty powder with grassy and “carroty” nuances. The evolution is pleasant and remarkable, albeit closer and closer to skin as minutes pass: the citrus-bergamot freshness evolves slowly into a smooth, slightly creamy, orange-driven nuance blending with herbs, the “cocoa” side of patchouli and the leafier side of iris, which in turn dissolves beautifully among earth, moss, patchouli and herbs. All gets cozier, warmer, a bit sweeter, maybe a bit faint (actually, quite faint) but still showing a consistent, really intriguing contrast between sweet freshness, plushy powderiness and musty-woody earthiness. Quite “whispered”, but it’s all there. It may seem a simple, if not banal composition, but well, the result is great, almost impeccable, and as I said above, quite unique. Or well, I simply can’t think of any other iris fragrance playing these chords, this way, and I’ve never smelled any iris-based scent smelling this earthy, damp, rooty and “rainy” but also bracing, mellow and uplifting. Effortlessly classy and melancholic at once. The drydown reminds me a bit of Prada's Infusion d'Iris drydown, as there's the same bergamot-iris-vetiver vein going on here too, but the mood is quite different here (Prada's all about crisp freshness, here the atmosphere is quite more damp and musty).

Plus (finally!) Lyn Harris’ signature “minimalism” and fondness for dusty-airy notes finds some sense here – the grayish, weightless, almost impalpable texture is just perfect for these notes, taming them down almost to the point of giving them a faded, dream-like substance (so yes, overspraying and frequent reapplications are encouraged). A truly inspired little wonder, maybe a bit too mannered and definitely too light for this concentration, but definitely worthy some attention for me.

7-7,5/10

Forbes of Forbes by Castle Forbes (2000)



Nose (apparently): Andrew French

At a first sniff, Forbes of Forbes seems quite close to, if not falling within the broad “British barbershop” family of scents comprising Taylors of Old Bond Street, D.R.Harris and Geo Trumper type of compositions – traditional masculine accords and some old-school distinguished feel of restrained edginess. I thought of Trumper’s Curzon, for instance, with a hint of Eucris’ ghastly herbal mossiness too. The quality here seems a bit higher though; Forbes of Forbes is a quite bold “eau de parfum”, and for once you can definitely get it in terms of thickness, richness and longevity if compared to Trumper’s or Taylors’ lighter (and often, duller) “eau de toilettes”. And most important, there’s quite much more going here also in terms of creativity... in a just partially compelling way for me, but it’s there.

Now, the blend. Honestly I don’t get some of the notes mentioned in the “pyramid”, while I get others. There’s surely a tangy, but quite tame citrus-fruity orange-pineapple head accord which goes away quite quickly leaving just a subtle, yet pungent and fruity persistent sort of herbal-damp feel smelling as much acrid as disturbingly cozy; and there’s a rich, dusty patchouli-ambery base, “ambery” meaning here both vanillic amber and a camphorous, salty, quite realistic ambergris-like note. But I also get a whole dry woody-mossy-pine accord which connects Forbes to several old-school powerhouses of the Seventies and the Eighties (think of any dry mossy-woody fougère).

Nonetheless, what I get above and beyond all of this, is a bold note of leather (which is mentioned on the box of this fragrance, so I’m not dreaming this): polished, contemporary, slightly ashy leather, a bit designer-oriented too. “Polished” means here nothing like Knize Ten or other raw, tanned, “unprocessed” old-school leathers, and also nothing like modern, over-smoothened soft suede leathers à la Tuscan Leather. This is nothing like them, and a bit like both – say, halfway between them: a dry, smooth, even slightly boozy sort of clean leather which has just been polished with a hefty dose of shoe polish, so showing a sort of chemical, varnish-like pungent aftertaste together with a sort of ashy-powdery feel, which to this extent, makes it smell slightly similar to leather’s rendition in Moschino pour Homme (I said “slightly”, and I refer solely to the leather note – contain your enthusiasm...). Quite realistic overall, but a bit pungently synthetic too, with an almost odd combination of tropical, herbal, ambery and camphorous notes and a salty-vanillic base acting altogether as a quite double-edged sword here – they surely make Forbes of Forbes smell quite interesting and unusually elegant, but also almost a bit screechy.

Overall this fragrance feels halfway really traditional and really unusual to me; it has definitely an old school chypre kind of vibe (besides the leather-powdery combo in Moschino pour Homme, Krizia Moods comes to my mind as well, minus the floral notes, and a bit of Polo Green too), it also has undoubtedly a “barbershop” feel, it has a really enjoyable warm leathery-ambery drydown... but at the same time, a few key nuances make it smell just a tad more “bizarre” than any of the references I mentioned above. More exotic-tropical, somehow more “gothic”, maybe more natural too – a quite raw, austere kind of “nature” with a really fascinating kind of lukewarm feel of somber, even animalic dampness. That’s probably the most interesting feature of this fragrance, which is there also on the drydown – this turbid feel of mossy-woody moisture. I’ve never been to Scotland but well, I guess this fragrance may surely fit the image many people (me included) have of Scottish foggy and humid natural landscapes. Ambergris even provides a sort of “wet stones” feel which surely fits the atmosphere. So far so good, you may say: now add to it some astringent feel of “salty tropicalness”, and you get why I called this scent “bizarre” and “not entirely compelling”.

I’m a bit torn about this distinguished mess, it feels like wandering through the Scottish hills on a moody cloudy day and stumbling upon the wunderkammer of a lunatic explorer. But for some reasons, I think I like it.

7/10

Gentleman by Givenchy (1974)



Nose: Paul Léger

I don’t know the current version of this gem, and given Givenchy’s descent into mediocrity of the past couple of dozens of years, I am not sure if I want to; but the vintage incarnation of Gentleman is by no means inferior to many other timeless vintage masterpieces – and I mean the true Olympus of those, next to Tiffany for Men or vintage Chanel Antaeus. I personally find Gentleman extremely distinguished, extremely high quality, and extremely unique, if not really innovative for its era. My review could (should?) really end here, but well...

The thing I find innovative here is above all the way the combo patchouli-vetiver is used in the composition, and the notes which Léger’s genius decided to surround it with. Basically, the “frame” here is an earthy-smoky texture rich in herbal, hay and woody-leather nuances, which is brilliantly paired with a traditional aromatic lavender-infused fougère bone structure (think of Azzaro pour Homme, although it came later) and a touch of  tangy and grassy citrus (similar to verbena). All of this surrounding then the true star of Gentleman, the patchouli-vetiver accord I mentioned above, which gets brilliantly enhanced by earthy, musky, smoky and sweet nuances; the dampness of hay, the indolic smokiness of leather and civet (just a hint, but you definitely smell that little devil rambling beyond the base notes), and a subtle yet perfectly perceivable smooth touch of warm, sweet-powdery-musky floral notes with a shade of vanilla.

Now, it may seem a heavy or complex scent with a lot of nuances ranging from herbal, to smoky-leathery, to woody and sweet-powdery, but it isn’t really. Or well, it is complex indeed, but not too “powerful” at all. It’s a refined, almost tame fragrance, perfectly reflecting its name, delightfully gentle and discreet, cozy and elusive at the same time. It’s so well put-together that it smells perfectly crisp, bright, even fresher than it may seem despite there is many “dark” notes. Truly a perfect uplifting harmony by no means “heavy” to smell – on the contrary, extremely easy to wear and to like. It’s amazing how the notes are there, clear and rich, and yet this fragrance has a remarkably weightless presence on skin – it’s substantial, but really mannered.

Surely a “vintage gentleman’s scent”, probably one of the most sophisticated around, but quite unique and actually, maybe more modern than others, if not slightly more “youthful” too (maybe thanks to the “hippie touch” of patchouli). Needless to say it smells rich, persistent and clear for hours, with a perfect projection and an impeccable drydown which gets gently drier and woodier (that vetiver again!) as hours pass, still keeping a touch of floral muskiness lurking in the background. What else to say? An amazing modern classic of masculine elegance perfectly showing the old school French taste for “classy dirtiness”, that unique ability of many classic French masculine scents to smell refined and cozy still keeping it dirty, complex and even subtly “raw”. Fantastic.

9/10 

Panama 1924 Daytona by Boellis (2013)

The nose should be Maurizio Cerizza, but I'm not sure.

A guilty pleasure for me. Boellis is a traditional shaving/grooming brand based in Italy, finally really connected to an actual historical boutique and an actual Boellis family, the current owner being an actual skilled and renowned barber. Now, obviously this means nothing as regards of their perfume range since they are not producing the scents themselves and rather just sold the license to a production and distribution company based in Milan (Profumitalia); but at least, the brand is honest and doesn’t need to boost its image and mock customers’ intelligence with made-up nonsense. And the fragrances seem reflecting that attitude actually, since the ones I tried seemed all as much unpretentious as quite solid. Maybe unremarkably, if not mediocrely good, but still (almost) worthy the price tag if you are into non-groundbreaking, non-luxury, but nice, well-made, compelling and slightly designer-oriented stuff with a refined old school, typically “Italian” twist.

Now, Daytona is a fresh, elegant, comforting, maybe slightly dull but totally competent leafy-zesty-woody scent with a metallic fruity twist bearing quite a clear resemblance to Creed Aventus, with some key differences for me (besides the elephant in the room – the price tag). There is surely a tiny bit of that same department store feel, the dihydromicernol-driven kind of pungent-metallic-aquatic citrus-fruity note blending with dry, musky, ambroxan-infused and again quite “mainstream” crisp woods; but there’s no pineapple first, less cassis-driven fruitiness, and there’s more musky smokiness with a cozy minty-lavender accent and some more nondescript “grassy” feel, which seems connecting Daytona more tightly to the old school aromatic-green fougères tradition, making it smell a bit more barbershop-oriented, more distinguished and more mature than Aventus. And overall, aside from the notes, Daytona smells also more breezy, more smooth, and surprisingly more natural than that in my opinion. Still that’s the ballpark, so nothing really new; but if you feel something like that (like Aventus I mean, or in broader terms, like a safe and tame enough contemporary aromatic fougère balancing “charme” and a “crowd-pleasing” attitude with a really good persistence and projection combo) is missing from your wardrobe... then Daytona would make a really classy and quality choice, with a decent value for the price.

7/10

Tom Ford for Men by Tom Ford (2007)



Nose: Yves Cassar

I’ve never been much of a fan of Tom Ford’s masculine offerings, as I find them either nice but overpriced, or fairly dull (Noir, for example). For some reasons I always never cared for this one, maybe unconsciously thinking, given the name, that it was a sort of epitome of all of that, and... bingo, this is instead the first one which works for me. Mostly because it’s finally something solid, with a fair price (well, sort of). Maybe a bit boring, surely too discreet for the needs of the average “bros” building pools to bath in their Private Blends, and however miles away from being ground-breaking: just solid and mature, unpretentious and versatile, with a remarkably decent quality and overall, extremely pleasant to wear. The composition smells simple and clear, and notes seem all built with really decent materials: the spiced, gingerish orange-citrus notes are sparkling, tangy and juicy; the floral-infused musky-ambery base smells compellingly warm, slightly creamy and slightly salty too, the whole woody-herbal accord is a bit aseptic and nondescript (I only get some faint, weakly mossy vetiver), but working fine within the composition, providing an office-safe “boisé” feel which will get some more credit on the drydown, and the suede-ish tobacco smells, well, like most other tobacco notes on the market - which means “nothing like real tobacco” for me, but nice anyway; smooth, sweet, “brownish” and affably, youthfully distinguished.

Like for some other reviewers, two fragrances came to my mind while wearing this the first time: Hugo Boss Baldessarini and to a much lesser extent, yet worthy a mention, a sort of spicier and watered-down version of L’Instant pour Homme by Guerlain. Maybe Carolina Herrera for Men too, just for the tobacco accord (an “orange-amber” flanker of that would be close to this Ford’s, I guess), and Kenzo pour Homme Boisée just for a similar citrus-scented light woody accord. Above all I’d mention Baldessarini though, and I would say Tom Ford for Men smells quite a bit better than that – more crisp, more appealing, definitely more quality too. So, anyway: a zesty, classy, politely self-confident fragrance with just the right hint of musky tackiness and a pleasant spicy-woody drydown with a warm whiff of amber. Surely a mild, maybe pedantic, kind of “generic” office-safe fragrance based on a really conventional and mainstream concept of “tart-spicy Oriental cologne” with pretty much the sole scope of making you smell nice in the most mannered, discreet and crowd-pleasing meaning possible... but hell, it does it impeccably good (sadly with a short persistence, but it does).

7-7,5/10

Initial by Montana (2015)

Again, just another "just-because-it's-new" review. Quite a meh, but fun scent.

Montana Initial is quite an odd scent for me. It smells as much cheap as quite unique, and with some stretch, fairly pleasant overall. It’s plastic, but fun. Out of the notes listed, I actually get just tonka (the powerful synthetic sweet-dusty-almondy tonka note featured in hundreds of cheapos/low-class designer scents), cinnamon for sure, some really generic crisp woods (“cedramber” and the likes), some citrus, a really faint cardamom, and most of all, a true ton of a really peculiar accord of, basically, spicy musk and ambery orange (which then evolves into “orange-infused amber”). This accord, which is basically the bone-structure of Initial’s first and mid phases, smells really powerful and bold, and I’m surprised it is missing from the “pyramid”. Now, I am not sure about the “orange” since it’s more likely due to the interaction of bergamot (which has surely some citrus-orange nuances) and cinnamon, but I am quite sure about amber and musk. They give Initial an almost overpowering feel of synthetic-soapy “laundry” cleanliness with a warm, dusty, slightly talc vanillic-ambery-woody vibe supporting tonka and cinnamon, with a whiff of syrupy fruitiness too, enhancing and taming them down at once (enhancing their power and the volume, taming down their, say, identity and their nuances). 

Still I admit it’s not a tragic scent; if I had to compare this, and it’s not an easy task since as I said, one of the few positive features of Initial is that it smells quite peculiar, I would probably think of a funky, ultra-spicy, sweeter flanker of Armani Code or similar fragrances. Sort of a cheap downtown sweet Oriental bomb. Actually it reminds me a bit of Zegna Intenso too, just sweeter, with double the power, half the refinement and more spices. The projection is powerful and the longevity is as much linear as impressive. A bit harsh and flat, probably a tad too much sweet and slightly tacky overall, but it works. Kind of the equivalent of a $10 tracksuit you can wear home or for some local grocery shopping. Quite unworthy its original retail price in my opinion, but Montana fragrances are usually sold in many grey-market stores for pennies – in that case, it may be worthy a sniff.

6/10

Mauboussin Homme by Mauboussin (2003)



Nose: Alberto Morillas

Mauboussin Homme is a fragrance which could effortlessly sell well in today’s niche or high-end designer market. I would definitely pay a higher price for it, since for the quality, its price a complete steal. The composition smells quite “new” and really sophisticated, the materials are clearly good and vibrant, there’s almost zero “designer cheapness”, and the scent shows all the solid skills of a great nose like Morillas. It’s a win to all extents, and I can’t see a reason to dislike it – except maybe for the slightly disappointing longevity, and the fact that they reformulated it – I assume that happened somewhere in 2005/2006 when Diana de Silva (which manufactured the first version) closed down. I haven’t tried the second version, which seems easier to find today, but the earlier bottles (with the purple bottom band) are still quite widely available, so no panic– in case of doubt, I’d look for those. And anyway my review is based on that first version.

Now, the juice: a surprisingly consistent, compelling and elegantly comforting smooth blend opening with a fresh and distinguished – but somehow “youthful” too – accord of bergamot, lavender and cinnamon soon joined by a sort of “phantom of Azzaro pour Homme” bone-structure (anisic sage and other “culinary” herbs, woods), recalling itself YSL Rive Gauche pour Homme, and also Cristobal pour Homme; together with a crisp, tasteful accord of something like ginger and spiced sandalwood which, as other reviewers noted, does indeed recall Carven Homme a bit. All brilliantly dusted with a subtle sweet accord of vanillic patchouli (smelling basically almost like cocoa beans) which considering the presence of citrus, herbs, sandalwood and musk, seem somehow anticipating some chords of Guerlain L’Instant pour Homme. But it's not over yet: there's also something dark around, dark and medicinal too, which joins the aromatic herbs in a really far souvenir of vintage YSL M7 (in the end, Morillas just composed it the year before).

You get the picture: a modern, spicy-balsamic (almost minty at first) Oriental fougère with a really crisp and smooth vibe and a dark shade, rounded by a surprisingly odd but perfectly fitting sort of sweet-fresh frame (I think it’s due to some nuances of cinnamon and lemon blending together), quite complex actually but perfectly harmonic and really easy to pull off. An elegant and uplifting fragrance to say the least, with a perfect evolution bringing it towards lukewarm woodier-muskier territories as hours pass, still keeping the lavender-cinnamon-vanilla combo up and running (joined by a whiff of cedar-infused incense, maybe due to the aromachemicals commonly used to built sandalwood notes).

Some of the facets of Mauboussin Homme show indeed many references to other fragrances, but considered as a whole, this scent is actually quite unique. It brilliantly puts together several inspirations, and it does it with versatility and effortless class. It smells like a bridge between classic aromatic fougères like Azzaro pour Homme and post-2000s Oriental woody-spicy gourmands. I’d define it quite “laid-back”, sophisticated by with a really carefree and relaxed vibe. And smelling just good, really good. It has just something “right” and inspired, which I really enjoy a lot. Recommended.

8/10

1818 Signature by Brooks Brothers

Nose and year are unknown to me.




I must agree completely with what shamu1 wrote on “Pour Monsieur” blog, and I thank him for having brought this fragrance to our fragrance fanatics’ attention. I am truly amazed by 1818, and despite I am a longtime fan of traditional wet shaving, I am usually not that intrigued by this type of fragrances (first because I usually don’t like cloves and they are usually stuffed with that note; and also because nearly all the ones I tried were always kind of cheap, too dry for my tastes, often poorly-lasting... and well, plain boring too sometimes). 1818 by Brooks Brothers is instead both the best masculine offering by this brand, and one of the nicest, most compelling “barbershop” scents currently available on the market, if we exclude rare or costly vintages. Maybe the best one. It is a truly impeccable, rich Bay Rum scent exuding masculinity, self-confidence, a “raw” piratesque exoticism blended with a Western breeze of clean, reassuring warmth – the kind of smooth and comforting soapy warmth evoking a fine robe, a glass of sherry, your freshly-shaved neck still burning from your Astra blades’ passage.

1818 is all of that; there’s an initial blast of leathery spices (cloves), a fresh, tart slap of citrus and bergamot, a surprisingly rich, uplifting and natural-smelling herbal-woody accord mostly comprising bay leaf, bitter grassy notes and mossy woods (and I mean deeply, realistically mossy), a dark and extremely distinguished musky base, all slowly revealing a fantastic “shaving cream” heart of soapy talc-powdery notes, with a subtle hint of sweet tobacco. There is no creativity, no fancy stuff, no pretend luxury; just a straightforward, unpretentious, proudly old-school tribute to the most classic “real men” grooming products blended by someone which must really know the subject. Mature and gentlemanly: no dandies, no hippies, no bros, no hipsters allowed.

Another sign of the quality of this fragrance is the evolution, which shows an extremely enjoyable transition from a raw, sharp and edgy spicy-leathery-herbal opening to a smooth, warm drydown comprising hints of vanilla, boozy-ambery tobacco, a surprisingly bracing sort of herbal-infused bergamot tea note, even almost some licorice-like accents, still enveloped in a refined cloud of talc soap and moody spices which smells so soothing and classy you wished it could last forever. The drydown is really not to miss here, I’ve rarely experienced such a clever, neat use of warm tea-vanillic notes (by this I mean you wouldn’t expect this drydown considering the first sharp stages of the fragrance: I didn’t really “see it coming”). The note I call “tea” is probably just the echo of herbs and bergamot, but still it really smells like tart black tea leaves to me. Hours of clean, refined, vibrant, relaxed elegance with some unpredictable shades and transitions, which can easily replace and overpass dozens of more pretentious (and way more expensive) “gentleman” fragrances. Pure comfort in a bottle. I assume 1818 won’t appeal many, if not most of today’s fragrance fans , but if you’re a “classicist” and you crave for a fantastic “barbershop” scent for those days you want to smell like a John Steinbeck’s character, then this is a gem and an absolutely compelling steal for the price.

8,5/10