Knowing by Estée Lauder

Sometimes the heavens part in the long trudge of trying out perfumes that are kinda ok but not worth pursuing further than the test-a-few-times stage and a ray of golden light beams down and hallelujahs sound. Knowing is, for me, one of those moments: a fully orchestrated perfume that I have only recently had the pleasure of, ahem, getting to know and which I am already clasping to my moobs in ecstasy.
The internet is awash with accounts of how this is only for mature, confident, yada-yada people, as if something that is as full-spectrum and unabashed with its goodies requires life experience on top of enthusiastic appreciation. Pay no heed and just depress that sprayer.
What awaits is a tapestry in boudoir shades. A gorgeous complex base of musky, mossy and woody tones, so rich and luxuriant that it rips the pants off much that passes for pricey niche. Set on it are burnished floral notes, proper fatty jasmine and sweet, almost peachy rose among them, that glint like gemstones but are also perfectly integrated by the gradations of cardamom, coriander, sandal, all of which shade by degree the space between the variegated flowers and the darker depths of that base. This is a perfume of all sorts united in perfect song. It’s bold, it feels like a thousand bucks and one need not go hunting down vintages to experience its armoury of temptations.
Oct 31, 2021

Sand Service by CRA-YON

Whatever else Sand Service did or didn’t do, it provided reassurance my sense of smell hadn’t derailed. Somehow, I had it lodged in my mind that this was CRA-YON’s vetiver, but upon spraying it came across more as a dry woody, a sweetish sandalwood mingling with cedar delivered in a mellow and fluffy cardamom envelope (which melts away as the wear progresses). But vetiver? Not quite, unless it was an uber-cleaned-up variety. At which point it was prudent to consult the declared notes and find, to my relief, that my nose hadn’t been wrong after all.
If you like discretely sweetish woody perfumes – and I do – then Sand Service serves one straight up without distractions. It’s nicely diffusive without going all ‘woody amber with a hacksaw’. And there’s an assured looseness to its fairly simple composition that nods to the sand in its name. Its bang-in-the-middle, easy to wear, office friendly and good natured, but there’s little that sets it apart. There are probably a dozen things out there that smell quite similar. Which means they probably also smell quite good. So, serviceable for sure, but it ain’t party-time.
Oct 31, 2021

The Other Side of Oud by Atkinsons

Want warmth in winter? Bring out the heaty spices and lay them out on a woody ambery base. Job done. This is the kind of thing that seems to have been gone over umpteen times before by the likes of Xerjoff and others, so no gold star for originality. However, that’s not the end of the story as the blend here is confidently executed – propulsive, fresh at the top, seriously weighty without becoming overfed or aggressive, and comforting as a bear hug from a bear of a bloke. You’ll get a fulsome charge of spices without feeling that you’ve been attacked or need a shower, which, in my book, is no mean feat. The oud truly has gone over to the other side in that there’s little sign of it showing up, but a mellow coffee note that is well-integrated in the mix offers interesting depths.
Oct 31, 2021

Reflet sur l'Okavango by Ella K Parfums

Mono – that was my first thought regarding Reflet sur l’Okavango. Everything seemed to be coming out of the same speaker, almost flattened together. And that was a bit of a shame in a perfume that takes a lightly honeyed acacia accord and juxtaposes it against pale straw-like greens and woods – bamboo, papyrus, white tea come to my mind. This should be a dancing, singing thing, dappled with shade; instead, there was that word – mono – and my experience of this perfume somehow couldn’t get past it.
But what it needed was time. After a while I noticed how the room I had been sitting in seemed alive with acacia blossom when I re-entered it and I made a mental note that this perfume probably comes across much better to others than to the wearer. However, gradually my perception of it on myself began to change, too – not quite the near headspace-technology experience I had had in my room (which made me leave and re-enter it several times just to replay it), but still a kindly floral kiss.
Oct 31, 2021

Joy Intense by Christian Dior

Joy goes around some currently popular destinations before settling in Vanilla-biscuitville. Seeing as its pink, perhaps the first port of call had to be a sweet-and-fruity gourmand in the kiddie candy-store vein of some bestsellers we all know but do not care to name. Then a transition towards jammy florals, cooked beyond recognition, until puff upon puff of vanilla sugar essays forth like a blizzard frosting all that palpating pinkness that went before. Ugh!
Oct 31, 2021

Mémoire de Daisen In by Ella K Parfums

I’d have written this off as a pink peony-type floral with a bit of a citrus lift in the mould of more budget-friendly brands such as Yves Rocher, were it not for the husky woods in the base that point at a little bit more. Still, this is scant reward and Memoire de Daisen In, which seems to be aimed firmly at perceived insipid expectations of customers in the Far East, remains pleasant but ho-hum.
Oct 17, 2021

Les Heures Voyageuses - Oud & Rose by Cartier

Perhaps it’s a bit unfashionable to admit it but the promise of oud and rose has a magnetic attraction for me – both notes (and I use the word advisedly as I have little experience in the rarified world of supposedly real oud oils) draw me individually; together the lure is usually irresistible, even if the vast majority of offerings throw up little that is exceptional.
So, what of Cartier’s ‘exotically’ priced Oud & Rose? The striking thing is how different it seems to be – the oud note super humid, like rain-sodden tree bark, dark and bitter as expected, but also with aspects of red wine corks, leather and areca nut creeping through. And rendered not with the bang and bling familiar from the hustler end of niche but as a kind of enveloping cloak that lies easy around the wearer’s person. The rose is here in a supporting actor capacity, arriving by degrees and expressed with restraint rather than flung into the bullring. This is the cloud of wilful unknowing, where one can lie caressed by scent and willingly surrender all intelligent thought. Except that one returns to that rather immoral price and, short of a sugar daddy, there is no justification to be found for it.
Late in the day, there’s a twist. A powerful, sweet and warm musky accent arrives unexpectedly, like a meeting with a friendly big cat.
One note of caution: avoid spraying this generously as much of the nuance will get compacted and it will just come across as just another smelly, leathery oud.
Oct 17, 2021

Shooting Stars : Red Hoba by Xerjoff

Red Hoba starts as the scent of gluttony: thick, fudgy caramel and vanilla, coffee grounds and syrup, lots and lots of it, and, oh yes, tutti-frutti bubblegum. Bring on the sugar-coma. And then it takes a turn, to let in wintry spices, smoky incense, earthy patchouli, but so transformed by their meeting with the rich foody swamp that the result is quite unpredictable and unfamiliar. Eventually, it settles into a huge, fruity (and slightly sweaty) iris cream.
For some reason, while trying out Red Hoba, I kept thinking of Lady Gaga’s meat dress – chunky, clunky, chewy.
Oct 17, 2021

Eau Sanguine : Bloody Wood by Les Liquides Imaginaires

Exquisitely elusive and living up to the ‘imagined liquids’ of the brand name, Bloody Wood would keep you guessing for quite a while, I suspect, if the intended red wine effects weren’t stated. Smelled blind it’s one of those ‘What *does* this smell like?’ perfumes. My mind came up with wet leaves, licked metal, a turned fruitiness as in sangria or mulled wine, a touch of subdued cinnamon-like spice but not quite, hints of talcum powder roses… You get where I’m going; the scent associations don’t really cohere and yet Bloody Wood keeps me interested; perhaps it’s the underlay of an almost humus-like earthy-vegetal smell at the bottom of it that powers the whole thing.
And then one is told ‘red wine’ and some of it falls into place: the mediated fruitiness, the damp woodiness, even the metallic tinge. But Bloody Wood is luckily more than that; an accomplished somewhat avant turn by Sonia Constant that, to me, was the best kind of novelty – one that didn’t wear off and kept calling me back for more.
It’s presence, alas, was a bit too shy for my liking.
Sep 19, 2021

Oud Deneii by Maison Incens

There you are baking in the sauna wondering if any of your blubber might melt (it doesn’t) and whether your brains might be in danger of drying out (they are), when along plods a fellow user and pours a cupful of aromatic water on the source of the heat. Whoosh – clouds of mentholated eucalyptus vapours fill the space and you might just as well have sprayed on some Oud Deneii. Except, of course it doesn’t convey the oppressive heat of a sauna, just that nostril cleansing vibe. Actually, it’s quite refreshing in a Vicks-but-kinder way.
It begins to settle around a light, sweetish woody backdrop, more reminiscent of a sandalwood aromachemical than oud, while hanging on to the health-and-fitness freshness of the start. It’s a rather simple perfume, without much of a trail (though you will smell it on yourself). Despite that, I enjoyed wearing it, though I would never consider paying niche prices for it.
Sep 19, 2021

La Pluie by Miller Harris

A shadowy thing operating at the edges of perception, a mist of a perfume, lightly floral, gently cool and yet with an equally gentle earthy/woody aspect. Is this shape-shifter (about the only perceptible note is thyme in the mid-section but that soon vanishes) rain-like? Maybe the blurring of water on a windscreen, maybe a spring drizzle, followed by walking into a house in autumn, maybe I don’t know. La Pluie is one of those perfumes that don’t seem to be of much consequence, until the moment is right and suddenly it is just the thing to be reaching for. And if it isn’t, then it’s just a somewhat watery, creamy-fluffy vague floral.
Sep 17, 2021

Noorolain Taif by Thameen

Mild-mannered woody rose that some people claim is similar to Creed’s Royal Oud. I find that a bit of a stretch as the Creed’s charm is a result of understated precision engineering and an overall breeziness, whereas this is merely understated. Despite the elevated materials claimed the end result is pretty basic, with a nice synth wood paired with a thin rose and some peppery spice. Shower gel territory.
Sep 17, 2021

What I did on my Holidays by 4160 Tuesdays

Oh, bounce that beach ball, this is deffo a summer’s holiday with sea spray, an iced mint note that belongs, as others have noted, in a scoop of mint choc-chip ice cream and coconut served up sorbet style. Don’t sniff too close during the opening stages, as an off bilgewater emanation (shades of the notorious Secretions Magnifique) provides a frisson that could shatter the daydream. Warms up during the progression, with the mint dissolving and disappearing, and the coconut going down the slick suntan lotion route with a hefty vanilla backing creeping up. Carefree, like holidays seldom are.
Sep 17, 2021

Mimosa Tanneron by Perris Monte Carlo

Light as a feather, hay-like mimosa offering, that, depending on one’s mood, will either wow with its delicacy and recollection of open fields or leave the wearer a bit nonplussed and wondering if they’re actually smelling a perfume at all, as the clean musk used leaves it so flattened it could pass as a memory of certain uber-gentle herbal shampoos. I think I fall into the latter camp, though I catch occasional glimpses of the intention.
Sep 10, 2021

Poème de Sagano by Ella K Parfums

While the richer perfumes of Sonia Constant’s Ella K range have been an unexpected delight upon my perfume travels, the lighter side of the range has failed to impress, with offerings that seemed too slight and generic. But Poème de Sagano changes that, with a delightful, juicy and tangy citrus put through the most civilized of light green filters. While lemony yuzu is in the lead, the pairing with grapefruit gives it a subtle nuance of guava which keeps my nose alert. It’s refreshing, seems as natural as a walk in a citrus orchard and yet also poised and composed. Beautiful work; perfect for springtime.
Sep 10, 2021

What We Do In Paris Is Secret by A Lab on Fire

What we do in Paris is…. visit patisseries! Or at least, I do. And the one this perfume conjures has lots of vanilla and almond (the heliotrope) treats, rather than the more daring stuff. Still, no mind, it’s sweet and oozy, has baby powder comforts and will probably get you a lick from a friendly dog. Lazy, hazy and with a nice rise to it, it won’t smother you with its affections like some perfumes with gourmand notes can do. Maybe that’s because of the mauve floral notes or the gauzy woods and resins in the base. Whatever, this is fit to wear in civilised company.
Sep 10, 2021

Olène by Diptyque

A marching squad of jasmine – front, back, left, right, centre – touches of mellow honeysuckle and wisteria notwithstanding. Dewy green up top, and then creamy and heady and about as close to the real thing as one gets. Successfully manages to evoke the cool of the morning rather than the tropical afternoon of many a white floral. Not really my thing, but shouldn’t disappoint those in search of jasmine soliflores to love.
Sep 4, 2021

Musc Noble by Guerlain

Whereas I’m not convinced by some of the big Guerlain launches Theirry Wasser has signed off – most versions of L’Homme Idéal makes me flinch at ten paces and Mon Guerlain is about as exciting as a wet dishrag – the more tailored quasi-niche offerings aimed at the more determined end of the perfume market have a better strike rate. Musc Noble is the third from the Les Absolus d’Orient collection I have tried recently, all of which have been reason for some restoration of faith.
The opening of Musc Noble is profonde as the French would say (with an almost instinctive half-closing of eyes and tilting back of head). Initially heady, with a half-and-half muskiness (clean and animalic) making sweet overtures and the fizz of aldehyde-powered saffron perking up things, Musc Noble comes on bold and confident. But then it retreats quite quickly, the musk getting cleaner and powdery (both baby powder and fine powdered woods) and the saffron dissolving into a mellow rosiness that at times resembles vanilla sugar. I can imagine that the boldness of the opening could have turned tiring over the long haul, but it hinted at a rewarding complexity that isn’t evident in the drydown. Musc Noble still does a fine job of being a cuddly, cocooning musk, and might just make anyone you hug want to clasp you a bit tighter.
Sep 4, 2021

Lost Alice by Masque

Perfumes like Lost Alice operate in an emulsive mode. Everything hangs together in an overarching, highly finished nose-feel. This one smells simultaneously of body cream, suede, high-end cosmetics and bath foam, thus the carrot and orris heart notes of this perfume are the ones that define it. There is a hint of milkiness but not enough to take Lost Alice in a more gourmand direction; the impression remains smooth and bleached out in the poshest manner. Within that wash of emulsion some interesting things happen – light herbals, angelica-like sweet green notes, a bit of clean rose here, a fresh accent of black pepper there – providing a sensation of courtyard freshness within the containing overall theme.
I find it a soothing, comforting perfume, perfect for wearing on those frazzled days when anything with a more pronounced personality would jar. Whether the service it provides is worth the asking price is another matter. Admirable persistence and the deepening of the rose blush in the late stages are further plusses.
Sep 1, 2021

Iron Duke by Beaufort London

Beaufort may claim leather, gunpowder, animalic notes, rum and who knows what else for this one, but what comes out of the sprayer is a brassy fougere – ready to do battle, for sure, as it insists on bellowing, when a simple hello may have been more effective. In that sense it lives up to its name, but I wonder whether a big, braying pine air freshener effect with a bit of saddle leather thrown in was really the intention. There’s a big, puffy cloud of aromatics in the middle of this one, including the stalwart lavender, and there’s nothing unbalanced about the composition, but it still makes me want to walk the other way. A few hours in, there’s a change of direction, where the ring of woodsmoke that hovered around the edges closes in a bit and a leather and dried herbs theme emerges – less fresh now and more interesting.
Aug 27, 2021

Meet Me on the Corner by 4160 Tuesdays

OK, I’m open to meeting this one on the corner – it’s a breeze of a perfume, providing the traditional summery blend of zesty citrus (the combo of orange and lemon, which means that neither expresses itself fully but that a good balance of sour-sweet is achieved), a light floral note and some pale woods in the background. But do I linger to talk with it on the corner and then say ‘We must meet up properly some time’? Of that I’m not so sure, as the conversation is unlikely to ever move beyond chitchat.
Aug 27, 2021

Musc Gold by Bruno Acampora

Bruno Acampora presented a beguiling, seductive and sophisticated musk the first time around in Musc; 40 years later, this Gold version dresses it up in hedge greens and a burst of neroli. It’s not entirely successful, losing most of the carnality of the original creation by bringing it outdoors, the resultant airiness also somewhat at odds with the animal magic of the musk. Perhaps this was intended for those who found the first offering too heavy or single-minded, but for me it seems like a perfume of two somewhat opposed parts. Fortunately, the original musk eventually wins out in the drydown, and then the receded foliage seems of a piece with it. However, I’ll take the earlier Musc any day over this; it just knows its own mind better.
Aug 27, 2021

No. 9 Bukhoor by Thomas Kosmala

Nice peeyoo oud – you know the kind, all brash tannery leather and unidentified faecal matter by the roadside. Bukhoor performs well the transformation trick such rugged ouds usually pull in order to make the wearer stay the course, morphing into something much mellower and furry, an animalic muskiness coupled with the rotting wood core that makes the cowshed look quite appealing as a place of habitation. Almost fruity, sweeter tones dance around in the mix, a touch of roses but nothing like the standard issue rose-oud pairing, and, as the wear progresses, a lovely, peppery and ashen smokiness acting as a sacral filter to the whole composition. I was enjoying how after its rowdy start, it kept getting smoother by degree, until a fatal twist a few hours in – that’s when a sweet and gooey woody amber in the I’m-not-going-anywhere-until-tomorrow mode elbowed out everything else, and what was once compelling became yawnsome.
Aug 21, 2021

Crazy in Love by Montale

Montale’s amour fou is a sugar bomb, so all queasy or semi-comatose reactions are valid. The overdosing of sugary aromachemicals makes many of the heavy-hipped and sharp-elbowed legion of perfumes to which Crazy In Love belongs smell like inbred descendants of Baccarat Rouge. The significant difference here is the absence of the hospital corridor off-notes; instead, the point of contrast to all the syrup is a blast of freshening effects that at times smell like vocodered citruses and even ‘saffron’ of a sort, until they subside and the woody backdrop takes their place. A woody amber of immense sweetness, any roses here have been boiled into jam by the most determined of Montale pan-stirrers. OK as far as members of this torpid family of perfumes go, but it’s bound to remind you of a dozen other things.
Aug 21, 2021

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