Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Taking a sabbatical

I should have written this a LONG time ago, but I didn't think I had to at the time.  Due to my work, I have not been able to dedicate any time to this blog, which is unfortunate, since I haven't been able to respond to any of the posts or questions you guys have made recently.  I'm a litigation attorney, and there are times when my job requires all of my mental and physical energy.  The past couple of months have been one of those periods. 

I work on the blog usually at night, after dinner and my kids are asleep, but my work has taken every ounce of energy I have recently, and when I get home, I'm just beat.  As I've noted before, I only write when I'm feeling inspired, and I haven't had the energy to feel inspired to write about perfume!  I'd rather not write at all during these times, rather than just throw together some half-assed, half-hearted crap for the sake of writing.  The quality of my writing nosedives when I'm not motivated.

This is a long way of saying that I'm still alive and well, but that I'm going to be out of commission on the blog for a little while, until my work goes back to a normal pace.  I apologize to all of you who have been following this blog for so long and look forward to the regular reviews.  I'm particularly sorry about not being able to respond to the many comments and questions you've posted during this time.  I will do my best to go back and respond to them as soon as I can.

Don't worry, I'm not shutting the blog down.  It's been too much work and too much fun for me to do that.

Best regards.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sandalo Oriental de Crusellas


This is godawful. They call this sandalwood? It smells like Spic & Span.

I can detect a teeny resemblance to something remotely like sandalwood for maybe thirty seconds after the moment I first splash this on. After that, I get this nasty blob of an odor that smells like some kind of household cleanser. I could barely smell it too, even with vigorous splashing onto my upper body. I swear I must have used a whole ounce of this in one application, just to be able to smell it. After twenty minutes, the smell was completely gone. That's about the only good thing I can say about it.

This is going right in the trash.

MY RATING: 1/10
Fragrance House: Crusellas

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cuba Orange


"Cuba Orange" is certainly an appropriate name for this, because orange blossom dominates. I must be starting to finally warm up to the smell of orange blossom, because I actually like this! My sampling of John Varvatos Artisan a few months ago opened my eyes to orange blossom done well, and it may have also unexpectedly opened my mind to the note overall. Cuba Orange is a delightful perfume.

This is a sweet floral fougere where all the notes seem to be there to support and prolong the smell of neroli and orange blossom. Lavender, tonka bean, white musk, spicy notes and moss are merely detectable peripherally, and together they enhance the overall orangey vibe. It's all very well balanced, and even though the orange blossom and neroli are the showcase, they aren't cloying or overpowering. The fragrance smells a lot like Dunhill Desire, but it's lot less heavy and sweet than it.

What I love about Cuba Orange is that its scent feels like it has a shiny orange glow to it from beginning to end. It's got a bit of a powdery, dandified feel to it, but Cuba Orange is a happy, uplifting scent that warms the soul and makes you feel good. I can't think of higher praise than that.

MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Cuba Paris

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tobacco 1800


Like most so-called tobacco fragrances, this one does not smell like tobacco.   It's not even close.   However, that's not to say it isn't any good. In fact, this is a great scent.

From beginning to end, Tobacco 1800 smells almost exactly like the drydown of Kouros.   I would even go so far as to call this a Kouros knockoff, only a lot lighter than it.   The unmistakable accord of musk, honey, civet, incense, moss and patchouli that you get in the tail end of Kouros is exactly what Tobacco 1800 delivers, and it delivers it admirably, as the scent stays rock solid and never goes to mush. I  only expect Kouros fans to want to try this scent, so there's no need for me to reiterate how awesome the Kouros drydown smells.

Granted, Kouros is a superpowerful fragrance, and when I wear it, I want the whole neighborhood to smell it.  Even though Tobacco 1800 lacks the strength of Kouros, I do have a use for this cologne.   Because it doesn't have brutal sillage, it's perfect to splash on after a shower or bath at night, when I'm just relaxing at home, ready to go to bed.   Sometimes I want to smell Kouros at night but don't want to wear something so powerful at the end of the day; I don't want to taste my cologne when I wake up in the morning.  Tobacco 1800 is perfect for those times.

For a "cologne water", this has surprising strength.  Though it doesn't have powerhouse projection, it's not quite what I'd call a skin scent either. Staying power is also good for a cologne water, lasting about five hours on my skin, perfect for wearing at the end of a long day. Great fragrance here.

MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Crusellas

Bijan Men




With all the powerhouse fragrances I've owned, worn or sampled, I still find Bijan Men to be one of the most ferocious.   It was the first fragrance I ever bought for myself, back in 1993, and I've gone through a period of liking it, then hating it, and now liking it again.   This is a scent you can't be indifferent to, because it's so powerful.   I'm amazed when I hear people say that the current version of Bijan Men, which is made by Five Star Fragrances, smells watered down compared to the original version by Bijan.   Granted, I'm going on my memory of that first bottle I had twenty years ago (it was the original version), but the current juice smells to me just as searing and brash as it was back in the day.   The scent also is the same as I remember it.

The opening and middle stages are violently strong.   This is an extremely spicy fragrance, almost to the point of absurdity.  If you've never tried this, you are either going to love it or think it's the most obnoxious stench you've ever encountered.   I used to think it smelled like hairspray and gasoline.   Now that I like it again, I recognize it for what it really is: a head-on assault of clove, nutmeg and carnation. The stinging middle notes are so assertive, they completely overpower the base notes for the first few hours; it took me numerous wearings to even realize that Bijan Men is an oriental fragrance - the aromatic notes are so strong they almost steamroll the sweet benzoin and amber in it.   There's also, of course, a ton of leather, moss and patchouli in there, so this frag has plenty of macho power.

A lot of reviewers (that is, those who like this scent) describe Bijan Men as being a sophisticated, debonaire fragrance for a classy, mature gentleman.   I don't really get that.   I find it brutal and crude, and it stays that way for hours and hours, even well into the drydown.

However, that crudeness is what I find most appealing about Bijan Men.   It takes balls for a company to even still produce this, never mind for someone to wear it.   I love it for its audacity and aromatic strength.   It may not be my favorite power scent, but it's a damn good one.

You may love it or you may hate it, but you definitely won't find it lacking in masculinity.


MY RATING: 8/10
Fragrance House: Bijan, Five Star Fragrances

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Clive Christian V For Men




I've read other reviews of Clive Christian V For Men, and I don't find it to be as chock full of ingredients and notes as others do. What I do smell here is an excellent incense fragrance, plain and simple. It smells like high-grade frankincense, like what you would smell in a cathedral during a funeral.

I love the smell of this kind of incense, and CCV has everything I look for in an incense fragrance - it's dry, complex, smoky, peppery, spicy and exotic. It's a smell I prefer to smell in the air, rather than wearing, but it's a great smell any way you cut it. I just don't detect a lot of development in CCV that others do, so there's no real unfolding of the scent. It smells exactly the same to me from the second I spray it on until the very end. That's perfectly fine with me, because I find good quality incense to be inherently multifaceted, so linearity with this kind of perfume is a virtue for me. Unlike Tabaco Latino, CCV doesn't get tiresome to wear.

On the other hand, I can't see myself ever buying this at its crazy price of $310 for a 50 ml. bottle. That's because you can buy an equally good frankincense fragrance, Avignon by Comme des Garcons, for about a third of that price. To me the two perfumes are almost identical, so there's no reason I'd go for the Clive Christian.

MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Clive Christian

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tabaco Latino

This is going to be a brief review because this fragrance is straightforward and simple.  It's tobacco, and that's it.

The simplicity of Tabaco Latino is both good and bad.  The good thing is that tobacco fragrances smell really good, and there's no question that's all this is.  It's neither a dark bitter tobacco note (like in Quorum) nor a heavy sweet pipe tobacco accord.  We're talking about a semi-sweet, dry, woody tobacco accord, like what you smell in The Dreamer (Versace), Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme or the base of Bogart Pour Homme.  I think I've described it before as the smell of unsmoked cigarettes.  It's not my favorite type of tobacco accord, but I do like it.  I personally prefer the bitter cigar tobacco note you get in Quorum, but so be it.

And that's all you get.  Other than a teeny burst of citrus in the very beginning, all you smell from beginning to end is the same tobacco scent, with no development whatsoever.  It's a well made fragrance that smells quite good, but smelling exactly the same thing for 15 hours (yes, longevity is that good) can wear you out.

Despite its tiresome linearity, I do like Tabaco Latino and recommend it to fans of tobacco fragrances.

MY RATING:  7.5/10

Fragrance House:  Monotheme, Mavive

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Very Valentino Pour Homme



Very Valentino is described as a woody oriental with a strong tobacco note.   Sounds promising, but I don't get anything even remotely like that at all.   I smell a generic, highly chemical smelling metallic sport fragrance.   It's bad.

All I can think of is metal silverware sloshing around in cold, soapy water when I smell this.   I smell a silvery, screaming synthetic violet leaf note (not listed, so it's probably the so-called tobacco note) on top of a flat, bland, light tonka bean and white musk base that does nothing to temper the olfactory white noise.   It comes off as both soapy and metallic, and just awful.   What is described as woodiness smells like rubbing alcohol to me.   I used to be a smoker, and I've never come across any tobacco that smells like this.

Fans of crap like DKNY Men might enjoy Very Valentino, as the two are similar and truly vile.   It makes Stallion seem like a work of art.  When my wife smelled it on me, she made me promise never to wear it again.   That will be an easy promise to keep.

MY RATING:  1/10

Fragrance House: Valentino


Monday, February 25, 2013

Stallion


This is an example of a fragrance that had potential, but manages to screw everything up in execution.   This stuff is pretty bad.

I say Stallion has potential because it has a stong, macho smell that I like at first sniff.   It's got this weird, dark woody note that smells like cork board, and I really like it.   When you first spray this on, you'll think, "Oh yeah, this is a powerhouse!".   That cork board note makes it smell like a cologne from the Seventies.   Cork board was a popular material used for making bulletin boards back in the 70's, so it's a smell I know well.  These are the things I like about Stalli0n.

The problem, however, is that it's all buried under a shrill, metallic chemical smell, reminiscent of bleach.   Memories of the unforgivably awful Wings For Men come to mind.   The entire fragrance smells heavily synthetic.

After about an hour, the chemical smell does mellow out a bit, and the dark woody/cork note becomes a little more prominent.   The problem, however, is that by hour number two, the scent has completely disappeared from my skin. What the hell?

So to sum it all up, Stallion is a synthetic smelling cologne that has big powerhouse balls for about an hour, and then completely runs out of gas.   If it had much better longevity, I'd probably be able to enjoy this more, since it does smell less synthetic over time.   However, as it stands, Stallion is pretty much a loser fragrance.

MY RATING: 4/10
Fragrance House: Larry Mahan

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Other Fifteen: My Top 25

Putting this article together has been a big task, and one I've been procrastinating on for about a year, but the time has finally come for me to bite the bullet and just get the job done. Several months ago I wrote an article about my Top Ten favorite fragrances, and in it I made note of the fact that I have a Top 25 list as well. This article deals with the other fifteen.

You may wonder why I have a list of 25, and not 20, 50 or some other number. I've always figured that some day I'm probably going to be forced to pare down my collection (which is currently at about 400 bottles) significantly. If that ever happens, I think knocking it down to 25 fragrances is a reasonable number. This was my mindset when I compiled this list a few years ago: I adore these 25 scents so much that I feel could be satisfied if I were only allowed to wear these 25 fragrances, and no other, for the rest of my life.

Like my Top Ten list, this list has remained pretty static during the past several years. There have been a few scents that I've removed over the years - Equipage, Agua Lavanda, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Guerlain Vetiver and Monsieur Givenchy - but I did so simply because I don't wear them much anymore, not because I love them less. Other than that, it's been a consistent list. All of the fragrances on the list are ones I've been wearing for years, and all of them are fragrances that I'm so comfortable wearing, I feel like they're part of me when I do.

Enough talking now, so here they are, in no particular order:


 
Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene)

Though this list is not in any order of preference, Grey Flannel is the exception. I came so close to putting this in my Top Ten, it deserves to be #11. Plus I wear it more often than most of the other scents on this list.

I have good memories associated with this one. When my wife and I were first dating back in the early Nineties, she tried to get me into wearing cologne on a regular basis. Her first gift to me ever was a bottle of Eau Sauvage, but before that, she had me sample a bunch of fragrances, and Grey Flannel was one. I liked it because it actually smelled masculine, compared to the others she had me try, which were wimpy aquatic and sporty fragrances (she didn't like them either, but thought I should try out what was hip at the time). I remember saying to her that Grey Flannel smelled like money, and that it was the smell of a real man. As for the others, I remember asking her, "Are you sure these are for men?"

I still love Grey Flannel, and in fact I wear it more now than ever before. Like most on my favorites list, it's a fragrance I've been able to grow with. It's timeless.



Tabac Original Eau de Cologne (Maurer & Wirtz)
 

Even my six year-old daughter likes wearing this on occasion, so how can I not love it? Tabac Original may not smell like a tobacco leaf or a cigar, but it has a brown, hazy warmth that brings to mind smoking jackets, pipe tobacco, dinner clubs, leather chairs, and all things associated with smoking and being a mature man of the world.

Like Pino Silvestre, Tabac is another classic gem that sells for chump change, so there's no reason not to at least have a 50 ml. bottle in the wardrobe.
 

Moods (Krizia)
 

Moods Uomo was God's gift to the world in 1989. It came into this world at the twilight of the 80's Powerhouse Fragrance, a genre that would soon die a painful death at the hands of wimpy aquatic scents.

Moods represents Old School Power at its finest. Its velvety gold blend of rose, tobacco, patchouli and oakmoss has never been matched, and its beauty is from another world. However, don't let its silkiness mislead you into thinking this isn't a powerful scent. Moods has a lot of testicular swagger, which it gets from plenty of macho patchouli and oakmoss. It's just as suitable to wear with gold chains and an unbuttoned shirt as it is with a suit and tie.

I don't wear Moods all that often, but not because I don't love it. I'm selective about when I wear it because I never want to tire of it.

 
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin (Lolita Lempicka)

 

Like A*Men, Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin represents an anomaly in my tastes. It's a gourmand oriental fragrance and it's sweet, which are two qualities I typically don't enjoy. It's also not particularly masculine smelling.

Lolita lights my fire because it creates a magically dreamy, purple haze of spicy scent all around me when I wear it. Its showcase note is anise, a love/hate smell that I happen to love, and it maintains that scent for hours and hours. Lolita is totally enchanting in every way, and no other fragrance gives me that same feeling.

I expect oriental fragrances to smell exotic, but few of them really do. Lolita Lempicka Au Masculine nails it perfectly.


Giorgio For Men (Giorgio Beverly Hills)

Now here is one of those fragrances that NO ONE will dispute is a real powerhouse. It was built to satisfy the true powerhead: loads of oakmoss and patchouli, uber-manly aroma, 24-hour longevity, and the sillage of a nuclear holocaust. Any more than four or five sprays, and Giorgio For Men truly will announce your presence about fifty feet before you walk into a room.

Giorgio For Men is a burly green oakmoss bomb smoothed out with honey and patchouli. It's silky and beautiful, with one of the best aromas in muscle frag history. The main reason I don't wear this every day is because I think I'd have perpetual olfactory fatigue after wearing this for a week.

 
Aramis (Aramis)

 
I've been wearing Aramis since the time I started getting interested in fragrances, so there's no way I can notinclude it in my Top 25. It's one of the first fragrances I ever bought for myself (Bijan Men was the first), and I've loved it ever since. I was 24 when I bought my first bottle, still studying to become a lawyer, and I remember thinking that buying and wearing Aramis was a sign that I was really becoming an adult. The fact that it didn't smell anything like the cutie pie sport fragrances that were trendy at the time certainly helped.

Aramis came out in the Sixties, yet it still smells unique today. Sure, there have been a ton of leathery chypres released over the years, but none of them smell quite like Aramis. It's complex too - at times it smells bitter, other times leathery, other times mossy, and other times aromatic - yet I can recognize it instantly.

I don't wear Aramis as much as I used to, but I know it will be back in my regular rotation again soon. It's so familiar and reassuring to me, sort of like comfort food, I don't think I can ever give this one up. Why else would I own three bottles of it now?

 
Givenchy Gentleman (Givenchy)
 

This has to be, without a doubt, the most patchouli-intensive mainstream fragrance for men ever made. A lot of guys have a hang-up about patchouli, mainly due to its association with hippies and potheads, so it took real balls for Givenchy to release a so-called "gentleman's fragrance" to the general public containing this much patchouli. They could have easily named this "Givenchy Patchouli Pour Homme".

I am aware of two formulations of Givenchy Gentleman: the original 1974 formula and the reformulated version being sold currently. I own and wear both, and although I love them equally, there are differences. The original is a superstrong, crude powerhouse, with a particularly loud, skanky civet note in the base. The current reformulated Gentleman is more refined and smooth, with a little less civet, and just as much leather as patchouli. I think the new version is a slightly better fragrance because it's better blended, but the original version has a brashness that I love.

Either way, you're getting one of the best patchouli or leather fragrances for men ever made.


Jaipur Homme (Boucheron)
 

Jaipur Homme is my favorite oriental fragrance for men. In fact, I think it's the best men's oriental scent of all time, period. It's very powdery, which gives it an old classic feel, but it's also got a strong, exotic spiciness that puts it firmly into the oriental category. Think Habit Rouge blended with Jacomo de Jacomo, and you've got an idea of what this is like.

Much debate is made about which version is better, the eau de toilette or the eau de parfum. I own bottles of both, and I think the difference is negligible. I give a slight edge to the EDP because it's a tad more complex and rich, but the EDT is no slouch at all. They both last a long time, project strongly, and deliver the same unforgettable Jaipur experience.

 
Polo (Ralph Lauren)
 

I've described Azzaro Pour Homme, Moods and Pino Silvestre as being, for me, perfect fragrances. Polo is another perfect fragrance.

Provided you don't bathe in it, Polo is suitable for any occasion, any time of year. Wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, and it comes off as a great casual scent. Wear it with a suit and tie, and it will give you an air of authority. Wear it with a tux, and you'll look and smell like a million bucks. Like Aramis, it's a complex scent, smelling green, dry, sweet, aromatic, grassy, coniferous and mossy at different times of the day. No matter what facet I detect and when, Polo always smells great. I consider it to be one of the greatest men's fragrances of all time.

Though it's a powerhouse, Polo is one of the few I don't like to wear loudly. It only smells right when you put it on in small to moderate doses. Too much, and it smells cheap and obnoxious. With just the right amount, it smells regal.

 
Agua Lavanda (Antonio Puig)
 

Agua Lavanda is my favorite lavender fragrance. It's so honest and pure - nothing hides the rawness of the lavender here. The lavender smells crisp and dry, just the way I love it. The careful addition of oakmoss gives a green tint to the lavender and adds to its earthiness. A touch of tonka bean in the base notes technically make Agua Lavanda a fougere, but the lavender is always the showcase.

Staying power and sillage are of course weak, which is typical of lavenders, but this is Nature in a bottle. I wear this almost every day in the summer.

 
Bel Ami (Hermes)

 
Writing this article made me realize that I rarely talk about this fragrance, which is strange, since it's been one of my favorites for years. Bel Ami used to be a big fat leathery powerhouse when it came out in 1986, and was reformulated a few years ago. It's not quite a powerhouse anymore, and it's a bit less leathery than it used to be, but it's still great. It still comes off as a classic French take on the 80's powerhouse genre, though, and that's what I love about it.

Bel Ami is still an extremely masculine scent, very European in style. I love how it piles on heavy aromatic notes like cinnamon, patchouli, anise, basil and sage on top of leather. It balances out perfectly, and it smells warmer and richer the longer you wear it.

This is one of those fragrances where you get awesome warm whiffs rising up from under your shirt throughout the day. It's like aromatherapy for me.

 
Lagerfeld Classic
(Karl Lagerfeld)
 

This is my latest addition to the list. I've had a bottle for about 13 years, but I haven't gotten to truly love this until the past year or so. It's very powdery and old school, so I needed a few gray hairs on my head before I could really appreciate and feel comfortable wearing it.

Though I love every stage of Lagerfeld, the drydown is what makes it one of my favorite fragrances. It's dark, spicy and musky, and it has a tart skankiness in the base that I often associate with classic French chypres, not orientals like Lagerfeld.

I find myself wearing this more than I ever expected when I first tried it thirteen years ago, and I see myself wearing it for many years to come.

 
Lapidus Pour Homme (Ted Lapidus)
 

Do I really need to say anything more about this that I haven't already said? You all know by now that Lapidus Pour Homme is one of the strongest, most brutal powerhouse fragrances ever made. Quiche eaters and wimps run for cover when you walk in wearing this macho scent.

Lapidus isn't great simply because it's strong. It also smells great (see my review for details). I love this juice.



Pino Silvestre (Mavive)
 

I love pine scents and I love dry green herbal scents, and Pino fits into both categories perfectly. It's a classic herbal fougere with a breezy green scent that smells like a summer wind blowing through a forest. I can't not love Pino *Silvestre.

If you love evergreen and herbal fragrances but haven't yet tried Pino, what the hell are you waiting for?

 
Knize Ten (Knize)
 
I'm sorry to be loading this article up with superlatives, but these perfumes are in my Top 25 for a reason. I love leather fragrances, and Knize Ten is easily the best leather fragrance I've ever smelled, and I've smelled a lot of them.

It smells like the tan-colored leather interior of a luxury car, like a Bentley or a Rolls. It's the perfect culmination of spicy and leathery, ever evolving as you wear it, always getting better the longer you have it on, yet never losing its leathery scent. Its longevity and sillage are shocking in their strength, yet this isn't really a powerhouse fragrance. This is a gentleman's scent (as the label on the bottle states), not a testosterone supplement.

Knize Ten's price tag may seem steep at first ($110 U.S. for 120 ml.), but when you consider how strong and how good it is, it's actually quite a bargain.

******
So there you have it, my Top 25. This is always a difficult list to compile, since there are so many fragrances that could feasibly make the list. If you're interested, here's a list of runners up of some that almost made it, all of which used to be on the list:

Equipage
Monsieur de Givenchy
Scherrer
Acqua di Selva
Worth Pour Homme
Krizia Uomo
Guerlain Vetiver

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pasha de Cartier


I've been wanting to review Pasha for a while now, but I've held off because it's been hard for me to describe what it smells like.   I now own a bottle and have worn it enough times that I think I can finally pull off a review, so here it goes.

Are you familiar with the style that I've often referred to as the "Classic British School" of masculine perfumes?   If not, what I mean is a style of fragrance that gives off a very formal, gentlemanly, serious, dressed up aura.   It cuts across all categories of perfume - fougere, chypre, oriental, floral, etc. - and it's a quality that I find most often in fragrances made by English brands.   Scents like Woods of Windsor Gentleman, Sartoriale (Penhaligon's), Grafton (Truefitt & Hill), Trafalgar (Truefitt & Hill), Bois du Portugal (Creed) and Dunhill For Men 1934 all have it.   They smell prim and proper and refined, and are the kinds of fragrances that would be right at home at a black tie function.   It's a style I've come to enjoy over the years.

Pasha, released in 1992, is an aromatic fougere in the early 90's woody spicy style, but with the cleaned up, formal feel of a classic British gentleman's cologne.   Imagine New West For Him or Escape For Men with a completely dead serious mien. All of the sharp woody and herbal notes in Pasha (and there are a lot of them) are sandpapered down to a smooth finish, so as not to shock anyone.   Every note and facet is carefully and perfectly balanced with one another.

Do not think for a second, however, that Pasha is a boring, superfluous "office scent".   Pasha most certainly makes a statement, especially these days.   If you live in the U.S., you will likely not run into another guy wearing Pasha.   It is a totally masculine scent in every way (it is an aromatic fougere, after all), to the point where a lot of guys will consider it an "old man's" fragrance.   Though it's not a powerhouse, it is quite strong, projecting with so much more authority than flaccid stuff like Ed Hardy or Aqua di Gio.   Longevity is also amazingly good - Pasha has a scent that will not go away unless you scrub it off with soap and water at least twelve hours after applying it.

You also shouldn't write off Pasha as being overly stiff or rigid either.   What sets it apart from the old guard fragrances I listed above is its heavy use of caraway.   I love caraway in fragrances, because it provides a rough, dirty, raunchy edge to any fragrance that contains it.   In a way, it's like a low cost substitute for expensive or banned animalic oils like natural musk, civet or castoreum.   The caraway in Pasha provides a hot blooded shot in the arm that, without it, would make Pasha smell a bit too stiff.   In this respect, Pasha shares a lot of similarities with its older brother, Santos de Cartier.

Pasha de Cartier is a superb fragrance.   I should note that once upon a time I couldn't stand this scent.   It felt way too formal and rigid for me to wear.   That was about seven years ago, however, and since then my tastes have expanded and I've had the chance to give Pasha a few full day wearings.   What a difference.   I'm glad I gave Pasha its day in court, because it's a great fragrance that I intend on replenishing when I run out.

MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Cartier

Monday, February 18, 2013

Phoenix by Keith Urban


This fragrance was on super clearance in a lot of drugstores in my area right after Christmas.   My wife saw a gift set at Walgreens for like five bucks, so she bought it for me for the hell of it.   I don't like country music and I know nothing about this guy Urban, but this is a pretty good scent.

The top notes and middle stage are incredibly good - leather and patchouli blended with a little bit of coffee or chocolate and some spicy notes.   It's strong and masculine, and the sweetness adds to the sense of weight and virility of the scent, rather than being overly sweet.   The first half hour actually reminds me of Shiseido's old discontinued 80's powerhouse scent Basala, only darker and sweeter.   It's really a great fragrance for about 45 minutes.

Phoenix' Achilles Heel is the drydown, which smells sort of weak and flat.   It's kind of a brown-hued, powdery, amorphous, blob-like smell that's hard to define.   Up close to your skin, it smells synthetic and cheap, sort of like the drydown in Azzaro Pour Homme Elixir Bois Precieux, though nowhere nearly as bad.   However, if you resist the temptation to sniff your wrist up close, the drydown is decent, and because Phoenix projects well, you can enjoy just walking around wearing it and smelling its radiant scent.   In this way, it smells like an afterthought of the awesome spicy leather opening and middles stages.   It's warm, brown and masculine, and smells okay.

Phoenix is an inexpensive drugstore fragrance, so you won't be risking much by purchasing it without trying it first. I do encourage you to try it, because it has a lot of great things going on, and I suspect it may just be that the drydown doesn't react well with my skin.   Other reviews of it have been mostly positive.

MY RATING: 6.5/10

Fragrance House: Keith Urban

P.S., If you decide to get this, buy the gift set. The shower gel is awesome, smelling even better than the fragrance itself, and it layers really well with the cologne.

Cerruti Image

In terms of perfume, I've always looked at the Nineties as being the era of the wimp.   Fresh, weak-ass fragrances were considered hip, whereas real fragrances like Kouros and Drakkar Noir were considered passé and crude.   It was an era that catered to people who don't like perfume - how else can you explain the popularity of fragrances that "smell" like water?  I ignored most of the new colognes being released for men back then, including this one, Cerruti Image, which was released in 1998.   I remember having a sample vial back then and not liking it at all.

As I've said before, however, my tastes have expanded since then, and sometimes it helps to be away from something for a long period of time.  That certainly proved to be the case with me and this particular fragrance.  Cerruti Image is soft and gentle like a lot of Nineties fragrances, but don't let that dissuade you from trying it.   This is a stunning fragrance.

Basically it takes the woody/spicy style of scents like Escape For Men and New West For Him, turns the volume way down and softens everything with a masterful use of pear, plum and white musk.   Unfortunately my writing can't do this fragrance justice - if I read that description, I wouldn't be compelled to try it.   You're going to have to take my word for it with this one.

Cerruti Image has both warmth and a snowy white cooling effect.   The overall effect is one of very light, transparent sweetness that smells totally natural, almost like a fruit tree.   Underneath the pillow-like sweetness are lovely green and spicy notes like geranium, banana leaf and black pepper.   Subtle aromatic woody notes like cedar, guiac wood and patchouli are off in the background, but keep the scent in masculine territory.   Everything comes together perfectly, and the fragrance projects a quiet, icy coolness that's also velvety and soft.   The sharp spicy, green and wood notes never scream at you, but rather glimmer in the background and provide sparkling complexity and color.   This is a truly magical fragrance.

Do yourself a favor and try Cerruti Image, even if you're not a fan of light perfumes.   I tend to prefer fragrances that are heavy and loud, but this is a hidden jewel that adds variety to my collection, and is one I treasure.   It is a work of great beauty, and is the Nineties' crowning acheivement in men's fragrances.

MY RATING: 10/10
Fragrance House: Cerruti


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Azzaro Pour Homme Elixir Bois Precieux



Use of the words "Bois Precieux" (which means "Precious Woods" in French) in the name of a perfume means nothing to me these days.   When I first saw this, the first thing I thought of were those stupid Tom Ford wastes of money in black bottles (e.g., "Bois Marocain", "Bois Rouge", "Oud Wood"), so I didn't expect to like it.   I wasn't disappointed - this fragrance sucks big time.

Azzaro Pour Homme Elixir Bois Precieux is nothing more than another cutie pie Ed Hardy clone - ultra-sweet, purple-hued vanilla and benzoin hell, mixed with aluminum foil and chalk dust.  I smell no wood notes in this.   The opening is bad enough with its sickening sweetness, but it's the cheap, yeasty drydown that makes me reach for soap and a scrub brush.  If Azzaro tried to make this smell any more synthetic, it would smell like powdered tile cleaner.

Azzaro has created a fragrance that looks like a niche scent but smells like a cheap, trendy designer one.   I've come across far too many other fragrances that smell exactly like this horrorshow, and I can't take it anymore.  This is HORRENDOUS.

MY RATING: 1/10
Fragrance House: Azzaro

Cabaret Homme


I don't wear Cabaret Homme very often, but I love it.   It's a semi-powerhouse aromatic fougere that straddles both the Seventies and the Eighties in terms of style.   I call it a "semi-powerhouse" because although it's strong and super masculine, it has a bit of refinement that separates it from ballsack fragrances like Brut and Kouros.

The powerful 80's Drakkar Noir-styled opening will make you want to grow a mullet.   Basil, juniper and lavender are three scents I enjoy a lot, and the first fifteen minutes are loaded with it.   You'll think you're wearing a fresher, more transparent knockoff of Drakkar Noir, which is always a good thing in my book.   Its transparency distinguishes it from a lot of powerscents.

It doesn't take long, however, for Cabaret Homme to shift gears in a major way, and within a half hour it becomes something completely different.   There doesn't seem to be much of a middle stage, and it kicks right into the drydown.   The drydown is awesome - it's a fat, hairy musk-driven scent that stays aromatic and macho, thanks to long lasting herbal and spicy notes like clove, patchouli and wormwood.   In this respect, it reminds me of the great 70's classic Azzaro Pour Homme. Cabaret Homme should be a model for perfumers on how to use synthetic musk correctly in a fragrance.   White musk's tendency to smell like laundry detergent is completely obscured here, thanks to the masterful way in which it's blended with aromatic notes.   It's completely masculine in every way, but it also has a subtle fruity essence (probably from pineapple) that manages to give an air of sophistication to the overall scent and prevent it from being a full-bore power bomb.

Sillage is strong but not aggressive, and longevity is excellent at about ten hours.  Cabaret Homme is a superb fragrance that should please fans of powerscents and herbal colognes equally.

MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Gres
 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Montana Black Edition

If you're a fan of the original Montana Parfum d'Homme (the one in the red box), I'm sure you'll enjoy this flanker, Montana Black Edition.  This is a true flanker, almost too true, since the fragrance is so similar to the original Montana Parfum d'Homme.

If you've never smelled the original, it's an extremely spicy, woody aromatic scent that very closely resembles Aramis' Havana.  It's a strong powerhouse of a frag, with a rich leather note in the base.   Montana Black takes that same theme, only without the leather, darkens it a little, and adds a note that smells like clove scented soap in the drydown.  In fact, if you layered Havana with Jacomo de Jacomo, you'd end up with something that smells a lot like Montana Black.

I really appreciate the fact that Montana didn't fall into the usual trap of releasing a sugary wimp-out like most designer fragrances that carry the "Black" label.   There is no sweetness in Montana Black at all.   This is an arid, even caustic on occasion, fragrance that will make your nose bleed in dry weather.  I wouldn't call the original Montana Parfum d'Homme a sweet fragrance, but compared to Montana Black it smells like vanilla ice cream.   Montana Black is bone dry and aggressively spicy, and it will deliver the goods like a true powerscent if you spray it liberally enough.

Though I slightly prefer the original, Montana Black Edition is an excellent fragrance that fans of spice bombs are sure to enjoy.

MY RATING: 8/10
Fragrance House: Montana

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Azzaro Pour Homme


Azzaro Pour Homme is the greatest fragrance for men ever made.  It may not quite be my personal #1, but it's close.  In my mind, it is the perfect fragrance.

Don't bother me with comments about "vintage vs. reformulation" with this one.  I own bottles of both, and it doesn't matter.  This fragrance is the balls, no matter what version you're wearing.

Azzaro Pour Homme is so expertly crafted and well balanced, I literally feel like it's part of my skin when I wear it.  The only other fragrance I can say that about is Eau Sauvage, which takes a back seat to Azzaro because of its mediocre staying power on my skin. 

Azzaro Pour Homme is right out of the 70's school of aromatic fougeres - herbal, spicy and strong - but it's so much more than that.  Though the first hour, with its powerful lavender, anise and patchouli notes, smells like a cologne for a disco freak, the drydown projects an elegant, timeless, mossy warmth that epitomizes perfume perfection.  It's an earthy yet smooth scent that wears like a second skin.  It's a smell that I wish would never end, and fortunately Azzaro Pour Homme is a very long lasting fragrance, with staying power of about twelve hours for me.

Azzaro is a powerhouse in my book.  It doesn't have the bludgeoning power of something like Lapidus Pour Homme, yet it surrounds you in a warm cloud of uber-masculine aroma all day.  It had a huge influence on the powerhouse fragrances that followed it in the 1980's, and it's popular with fans of strong scents.  I like to call it an "aura fragrance", meaning its potency comes from the diffuse scent that radiates off your skin at a distance, rather the way it smells up close.  I like to spray myself liberally with Azzaro Pour Homme - about seven or eight sprays. I'm sure people look at me like I'm "Cologne Guy" when I walk by, but I don't care.  This is a frag I want to broadcast.

This is a cologne with real swagger.  It's both hairy-chested and refined, and would smell just as appropriate on John Gotti as it would on David Niven.  The reason Azzaro is such a manly scent is because it's the smell of confidence.  I'm a pretty confident guy anyway, but I feel like I own the world when I wear this macho juice. I'd call it a classy testosterone bomb.

If James Bond were French, he'd wear this.

MY RATING: 10/10

Fragrance House: Azzaro

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My View: Are you losing interest in perfume?

I'm deviating from my normal format with this post, but I feel I need to make an exception at this time.

Have any of you read yesterday's post on From Pyrgos entitled "The Slow Death of Basenotes and the End of the Perfume Renaissance"?   If you haven't, you should.  Basically his thesis is that the fragrance boom that started around 2006 is coming to an end, and as a result, perfume bloggers are slowing down or closing up shop, due to a lack of interest.

I tend to agree.   I see a few culprits for this phenomenon, the first being the inane volume of niche fragrances that have flooded the market during the past five years, as well as new niche companies popping up every five minutes.   It seems like any Johnny-come-lately that has any interest in perfume can throw together a couple of mediocre fragrances, give them Arabic-sounding names, charge $250 US for a half ounce bottle, and market them as exclusive niche products that can only the most discerning perfume lover can appreciate.   It's ridiculous, and the market is saturated.   Look at Montale a couple of years ago - how many freaking oud fragrances were they releasing?   Two a day?   Does the world really need more oud perfumes?   How about patchouli frags? Clearly the answer is NO.   The whole point of niche fragrances was to provide an alternative to the sameness of designer perfumes, but now niche releases seem to far outnumber designer ones.   I wouldn't be surprised if people turn to designer and drugstore scents as an alternative to these dumb niche things.   Is there a secret competition among niche brands on who can produce the most number of unwearable fragrances in the shortest amount of time?

The From Pyrgos article also talks a lot about the downfall of Basenotes.net.   If there really is a decline in interest in perfume (and I believe there is), I cannot doubt that the fall of this once very influential website as being a major cause.   For years, it seemed like Basenotes was the hip place for fragrance enthusiasts (especially male ones) to go for reviews and engage in discussions about perfume.   Basenotes turned me, and I assume thousands of other fans, on to hundreds of new perfumes, and purchases inevitably followed.   I can only imagine how many online perfume retailers directly profited from Basenotes' existence.

Basenotes deserves to go down the shitter, due to the way its creator, Grant Osborne, has run the place.   As the From Pyrgos article notes, this guy has managed to lure in fragrance snobs from around the world, and then pit them against everyone else using the site, particularly by charging users (who are called "BN PLUS Members") for the "privilege" of posting reviews immediately and being able to engage in discussions in the "Secret Dependents Discussion Board", which is a forum only open to paying customers.   I used to be a paying "Basenotes PLUS" member, I'm now embarrassed to admit, simply so I wouldn't have to wait six months for my reviews to post.   I had access to this "secret" forum, and it was nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled perfume snobs bitching about all the other members who weren't part of their clique.  It was disgusting, and I refused to participate.   And Grant Osborne, being the catalyst of all this snobbery, would occasionally pipe in with a post trying to make it look like he wasn't participating in all the noob-bashing.   And he was charging members money for the privilege of acting like an asshole.

However, if Basenotes ultimately bites it, it's due to the fact that the site doesn't work.   It seems that at least half the time you can't even access most of the site, and it locks up when you try.   The site is bogged down with annyong pop-up ads that interfere with your access, and often bring it to a grinding halt, at least on my computer.   This is inexcusable, and is a key reason why I stopped my "Plus" membership.   Let's face it - when your website is unusable for as long as Basenotes is, people are going to get sick of it and look somewhere else.   Once you lose those people, it's hard to get them back, and this is why I expect Basenotes to bite the dust.   Plus, I'm sure people are as sick of Grant Osborne's bullshit excuses for his site always being down as I am.

The reason I'm going on and on about Basenotes here is because I know a lot of you know me from when I was moderating the Powerhouse Fragrance Users Group on Basenotes.   Your enthusiasm for the Powerhouse group has helped me build my blog here, and I thank you for that.   And this brings me, finally, to my main point of this article - are you losing interest in perfume?

I want you all to know that I haven't. I say this because some of you are probably wondering why I haven't posted anything in the Powerhouse Fragrance Users Group in almost a year.   It has nothing to do with my losing interest in powerhouse fragrances or, for that matter, any fragrances.   It's simply because I'm only one person, and the time I've been spending writing this blog has prevented me from being involved in the Powerhouse group.   I thought I could handle both, but I can't.

Most importantly, my own tastes in fragrances - classic and old school frags - have prevented me from losing interest.   And I suspect most of you are of the same mind set, or at least I hope you are!   Oud fragrances, niche fragrances, etc., have come, and they will pass.   But old classics like Azzaro Pour Homme, Eau Sauvage and Quorum are eternal.   They were created a long time ago, and they're still around for a reason.   I still wear them, and always will.   And that's why my interest in perfume has never faltered.  I plan to keep the spirit alive with Pour Monsieur, and I hope From Pyrgos will continue on as well.   I'm fortunate in that I feel like I'm unaffected by the waning in perfume interest.   I hope you feel the same way.

I encourage you all to post your comments below, because I really am interested in gauging the enthusiasm level amongst you all at this moment in time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Man.Aubusson Intense


I bought this fragrance without trying it first. I remember rushing back to my car after paying for it, dying to try it out. I sprayed some on the back of my hand, and my heart sunk. It smelled like a typical trendy sweet, woody, purple metallic thing, like Ed Hardy or other shit like that. I thought it sucked.

Fortunately I do take my personal policy of "wear it all day before you judge it" seriously when it comes to reviewing fragrances, and I'm glad I did with this one. Man.Aubusson Intense is excellent. It certainly qualifies as a sweet woody spicy oriental (my least favorite genre), and it would probably smell right at home in a nightclub or at a college party, but its composition is what lifts it above most trendy fragrances.

The generic wimpy, metallic citrus in the opening does little for me, though there's a nice sweet coffee note in there that makes it pretty enjoyable. What I really like about Man.Aubusson Intense is the way it evolves: it starts off like sweet mocha, then slowly but surely a warm, rich leather note comes to the fore, and the scent takes on a much more masculine feel. I've never seen a list of notes for this fragrance, but it sure smells like leather to me - a sweet leather note, but still leather and very good.

The drydown is especially satisfying. By then the irritating metal notes are long gone, and you're left with this beautiful coffee, amber and leather accord, where all three notes blend in perfect balance. It's smooth and heart-warming, yet totally masculine, even refined. It smells a lot like the incredible drydown in Rochas Man. It's sweet, but its excellent sense of balance prevents it from being overbearingly so.

Man.Aubusson Intense may not be unique (it does smell similar to Rochas Man and Michael Jordan Legend), but it's a very good scent that should appeal to guys like me who are over 40 just as much as younger guys. It manages to combine youthful sweetness with classic leathery richness perfectly, which is not an easy feat.

MY RATING: 8/10

Fragrance House: Aubusson