Ven goes on with bitter cherry before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart a natural smelling, pungent cumin spice emerges and dominates , faintly supported by dry rum and leathery animalic castoreum rising from the base. During the late dry-down the perfume softens and smooths out, as a relatively dry vanilla and sandalwood tandem joins the remnants of the now diminished cumin and castoreum through the lengthy finish. Projection is below average and longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
I have been sampling the VenDetTa trio of scents in random order recently, and this is the last of the three. My reviews of the other two have been anything but positive, and sadly "Ven" is by far the worst of the lot. It is no secret that I am no fan of cumin, and Ven is heavily cumin dominant in the key heart phase particularly. To the perfumer's credit, this cumin is not the typical "BO" presentation of the spice, but rather an extremely realistic culinary presentation (and it would not surprise me in the least if the perfume is loaded with the real stuff). When you add in the leathery, almost smoky castoreum to the mix, this combination is a pretty hardcore tough one to endure. Only in the late dry-down is the wearer released from the perfume's torture by culinary herb, as its woody-vanilla softened late dry-down takes a lot of the earlier "bite" away. There really isn't much positive I can say about Ven, except that luckily it is not a good projector. My guess is if someone *could* smell the perfume on you, they would give you a dirty look and steer well-clear. In truth, I believe the VenDetTa trio are each only partial perfume journeys, meant to be worn in various degrees together. Personally I would advise against investing in three partial perfumes that are independently horrible, only to yield one wearable one by their combination, in favor of purchasing any number of the *far* superior smelling O'driu perfumes that can be proudly worn independently. The bottom line is the apparently discontinued $150 Euros per 50ml bottle Ven appears to only be a partially finished perfume, requiring its other disappointing siblings to be remotely wearable, earning it a "horrific" to "very poor" 1 to 1.5 stars out of 5 rating and a "run away as fast as you can" avoid recommendation to all. The only VenDetTa must be on the prospective purchaser with this terrible trio from O'driu!
Satyricon opens with a tinge of plum-laced cocoa, with an underlying "trademark" melange of O'driu's cumin led culinary herbs immediately detectable before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart it turns bonfire-like woody-smoky, as cedar logs are first thrown into the campfire, with slightly slightly sweet, minty birch and moderately pungent balsamic myrrh joining the remaining culinary herbs in support. During the late dry-down the bonfire-like smoky and pungent balsamic facets vacate, leaving the natural smelling cedar sans smoke to join with non-powdery, relatively dry vanilla and trace remnants of the O'driu culinary herbs through the lengthy finish. Projection is very good, and longevity outstanding at over 20 hours on skin.
Satyricon gives the wearer quite the ride from start to finish. It starts off just a bit sweet, using the plum and cocoa to give a hint that Pregoni might be angling for a gourmand focus. This assumption is quickly dispelled, as the perfume turns almost cade wood-like, as cedar logs get thrown on an open fire, turning the perfume campfire smoky. This smoke gets tempered a bit by a slightly unsettling supporting sweet minty presence that feels maybe a bit out of place, but is interesting at the same time. The whole thing finishes in rather mundane but quite pleasant smelling fashion as it turns into a relatively straight forward natural woody vanilla finish. I should mention that lest anyone think this is any perfume other than one by O'driu, the culinary herbs Pregoni is so well known for are present throughout, though unlike most other O'driu offerings they are always used in support. The bottom line is the apparently discontinued Satyricon shows a playful Pregoni successfully toying with the wearer's comfort zone for most of the development before allowing for some normality late, earning it a "very good" to "excellent" 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 rating and a recommendation to the more experimental perfume wearers among us.
Parvatha opens with very brief, slightly sharp bergamot citrus before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, a somewhat sweet, faint green mint joins coniferous bracing pine before adding in supporting tart green apple, synthetic pineapple and piercingly sharp woody vetiver with hints of vague synthetic woods rising from the base. During the late dry-down the synthetic dry, vague woods take the fore in a dominant way, with only the tart apple and pineapple fruit from the heart hanging on in subtle support through the finish. Projection is very good and longevity very good to excellent at 11-12 hours on skin.
Parvatha is a perfume that shows some creativity early, only falling prey to a key ill that plagues so many other perfumes, the dreaded "vague synthetic woods" syndrome. At first, the perfumer combines a rather odd, but relatively interesting and effective mixture of tart fruit like green apple with synthetic smelling pineapple (while in no way going for anywhere near an Aventus dynamic) and sharp vetiver with green pine and natural mint of all things. The overall complex mixture is bizarre and not really pleasant smelling, but it does generally work for those that like that kind of oddball thing. If time stopped here, this review would probably be a neutral, as while I am not really a fan of the mix, I can't deny there is skill in putting so many unexpected ingredients and accords together. Alas, about halfway through the heart the wearer begins to notice vague synthetic dry woods (can we all say "norlimbanol?") that immediately become a negative distraction with a concrete-like aspect permeating the overall mixture, and by the late dry-down become the dominant and highly annoying player though the finish. I hate panning small up and coming indie brands, but alas a dud is a dud. The bottom line is the $130 per 50ml bottle extrait concentration Parvatha displays innovation early, only to whip out horrific norlimbanol in full-force late, yielding a "below average" 2 to 2.5 stars out of 5 rating and an avoid recommendation to all.
Knize Two goes on skin with a slightly creamy, grassy green accord with hints of nose tingling aldehydes and banana-like floral ylang-ylang in support before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart a slightly powdery doughy bread-like iris and violet tandem takes the fore in a big way, supported by dull rose and carnation florals with an underlying dark musky-woody accord. During the late dry-down the perfume eschews its floral bouquet, leaving slightly sweet sandalwood to pair with amber in the base and faint musky remnants from the heart through the relatively brief finish. Projection is average, and longevity below average at 4-6 hours on skin.
I have had a sample of Knize Two lying around for ages, but never really gave it a go until recently when I randomly selected it from my large sample bag to wear as my "fragrance of the day." Its brother, perfume Knize Ten, is well-regarded and indeed loved by most including this writer. Is Knize Two another winner from the same storied house? In a word, "No." Before anyone completely chucks their Knize Two bottles based on that brief summary, in truth the perfume is not really a bad release, but it will certainly be an acquired taste to be sure. For one, the wearer must love florals, and I mean iris in particular. The heart of the perfume is heavily iris and violet dominant (which complement each other well), with the rose and carnation really playing second fiddle to my chagrin as I find the latter two more appealing. I rarely have a hard time wearing floral compositions and indeed love many, but I found myself feeling a bit self-conscious wearing *this* one, in truth, despite the perfume being marketed to men. The musky-woody undertone used to bolster the florals only adds a dated vibe to an already difficult mix. By the time you get to the late dry-down, things improve considerably as the florals vacate, but the finish is all too short-lived, and then the whole journey becomes a distant, rather forgettable memory. The bottom line is the apparently discontinued Knize Two is a rather middling "average" 2.5 stars out of 5 rated short-lived effort that is a tough wear for the iris averse, even smelling somewhat dated to this vintage perfume lover, earning it an avoid recommendation to all.
Perfecto Fino opens with a super-brief faint, dulled lemon before quickly transitioning to its early heart. As the composition enters its early heart, rugged dry leather and smoky, ashy tobacco take the fore with hints of dying grass and earthy patchouli in support. During the late dry-down the perfume morphs to a leathery labdanum driven affair, with moderately sweet sandalwood gradually displacing the labdanum as time passes, supported by a touch of amber through the lengthy finish. Projection is good to very good, and longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
Perfecto Fino is one of less than a handful of perfumes I have tried over the decades and changed my mind about, in this case to the positive. The first couple times I tried it on skin I was near-immediately put-off by the aggressive ashy tobacco/hard leather tandem that almost immediately hits you in full-force when applied on skin. Quite frankly, that part of the perfume's development really biased me against it due to it being completely counter to my tastes. It wasn't until the third and fourth attempts that my nose got past the ash and was able to enjoy the really gorgeous leathery labdanum led early part of the late dry-down and the sandalwood to follow through the finish. Once I got there and could really focus in on it, I found I actually like the stuff. The bottom line is the $240 per 100ml bottle Perfecto Fino is a tough perfume to like early, but those that can get past its off-putting start are rewarded for their tenacity with a fine finish, earning it a "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 overall rating and a solid recommendation to the more patient among us.
Det (part two of the three part VenDetTa perfume trio released by O'driu) is a tough one to break down into individual notes, so I will skip the normal objective note breakdown and move directly to my subjective impressions. Projection is average and longevity outstanding at around 24 hours on skin.
While quite the personality, Angelo Orazio Pregoni has more than demonstrated that when he puts his mind to it, he is a perfumer of inordinate talent with the capability to create genre changing accords and perfumes in general. Alas, his works while almost always revealing an underlying story beyond just the perfume itself can be rather hit and miss, and the VenDetTa trilogy is a major example of the latter.
In the case of this review, we have the second part to the trilogy, "Det." Det starts out with a benzoin infused relatively sweet odd smelling red berry accord, quickly morphing into a dry cedar woody heart, with the sweetened red berries remaining in support, as well as to a minor degree the O'driu trademark culinary aromatic herbs that hang well in the background, adding just enough character that the perfume could not be mistaken for anything but one from Pregoni's Odriu. The late dry-down is a much more normal affair, with a slightly powdery vanilla-woody focus, providing relief from the oddly sweet red berries that mar the open and heart phases as they vacate to give the wearer a break. It is no secret that this writer is not a fan of overly sweet compositions, and the sweetness here coupled with the red berries and dry wood just doesn't work well at all. I do like the highly tenacious late dry-down once the berries and sweetness leave, but when one really thinks about it, vanilla woody finishes have been done many, many times just as well - it is the earlier components that are the innovative aspects, and they fail. The bottom line is the 150 Euro per 50ml bottle Det has some of the trademark Pregoni innovative DNA within, but in this case innovation doesn't mean well-done, with this disapointing outing earning a "poor" 2 stars out of 5 rating and a strong avoid recommendation to all.
Oudh Infini opens with a powerful deep, lush rose and fecal smelling real oud tandem before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the real oud remains, now as the focal ingredient as the fecal aspects slowly turn more gauze-like as supporting slightly creamy sandalwood softens its bite. As time passes the oud morphs to animalic musk that takes its place with the oud remnants slowly fading in support. During the late dry-down, the animalic musk remains with the oud now all but vacant, as slightly powdery vanilla joins the musk as co-star through the lengthy finish. Projection is excellent, and longevity outstanding at just shy of 20 hours on skin.
I have now worn Oudh Infini about five times and with each wearing it impresses me a bit more. On first glance it is a very well-done classically structured rose/oud composition using plenty of real oud and excellent quality deep rose. The open and early heart in many ways remind me of Ropion's fabulous "The Night" for Frederic Malle, with Oudh Infini containing a bit less quality and quantity of real oud and rose... That said, while the similarity can't be ignored (and is in no way meant as a negative), the Dusita composition distinguishes itself from here-on out, slowly morphing to a musk and vanilla led finish that shows there is more to the composition than a fine, but slightly lower quality "The Night" clone, proving a much more complete journey for the wearer. I don't care much for animalic musk, but Oudh Infini definitely handles it quite well. The bottom line is the $465 per 50ml bottle Oudh Infini may come up just short of Ropion's superb rose/oud composition in terms of ingredient quality and blending, but has additional tricks up its sleeve, earning it an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rating and a solid recommendation to lovers of real oud compositions that go beyond the typical rose/oud pairing.
Magus goes on with a brief dash of saffron spice infused jasmine before quickly transitioning to is heart. As the composition enters its early heart, a relatively strong dose of a gauze-like smooth real oud and jasmine infused near-syrupy rose tandem dominates before the rose gradually lightens and becomes more airy as time passes. During the late dry-down, the oud vacates completely, leaving the remnants of the now light rose to pair with slightly powdery vanilla and relatively dry sandalwood through the lengthy finish. Projection is good and longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
Magus on first glance comes off as a "me too" kind of rose and oud classically structured perfume made from high quality naturals. If that was it, this write-up would still be positive, but kind of indifferent. Luckily there really is more to the composition than I thought, and as time passed it morphed from the smooth rose/oud focus to more of a woody/floral, with the rose almost shape-shifting from a more dense, deep rose early to more light and airy late as the oud vacated, now replaced with sandalwood and vanilla. When the whole journey is concluded, Magus really never brings anything new to the table, but what it *does* bring, perfumer Reinthal executes quite well. The bottom line is the $230 per 30ml bottle Magus combines top quality naturals with excellent perfumer skill to yield an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rated outing and a recommendation to rose/oud lovers that want real oud but can't tolerate some of its more animalic and/or fecal facets in other compositions. In particular, Magus should appeal to lovers of compositions like Thirty-Three by Ex Idolo.
LiTA opens with an almost almond-like slightly sweet creamy vanilla and sandalwood derived accord with a faint, very brief hint of underlying slightly sharp bergamot citrus before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the vanilla remains and takes the fore, coupling with some relatively strong burning wood-like incense rising from the base as earthy patchouli adds support to the "burning woody vanilla." During the late dry-down the burning wood gradually vacates, as the slightly benzoin sweetened vanilla still hangs on through the lengthy finish, now supported by just slightly sharp woody vetiver. Projection is good and longevity outstanding at well over 20 hours on skin.
The bottle of LiTA I have to admit for whatever reason drove me to want to sample the perfume on sight, and knowing the perfumer was Antonio Gardoni who has many successful compositions under his belt didn't hurt its cause either. So, does LiTA live up to its rather cool looking bottle? The answer is for the *most* part, "yes." If I had a short descriptor to give a quick blurb about what the perfume smells like at its core, it would have to be "Burning Firewood and Vanilla." In order to enjoy this perfume you *must* be OK with, or preferably enjoy the smell of burning wood (something I confess to not being much of a fan of personally). The late dry-down finally gets rid of that burning wood aspect, leaving the high quality vanilla used to shine, and it does. There are tons of published notes to the perfume outside of vanilla, but alas the burning woods (derived from incense in the base) obscure a lot of them for most of the perfume's development. The bottom line is the $225 per 50ml bottle LiTA is a pretty decent "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 rated effort by Gardoni that will appeal to a small segment of perfume lovers, but the burning woods that dominate through the key heart development phase are a bit too much of a distraction for this writer, earning LiTA only a very tepid recommendation, unless one loves the smell of burning firewood.
Hypnotizing Fire opens with a blast of fiery red pepper and warm clove spice with hints of benzoin sweetened soft patchouli before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the soft patchouli enhanced by remnants of the warm spice from the open takes the fore, as dull rose, frankincense-like opoponax and relatively smooth moderately sweet vanilla join in significant support. During the late dry-down the warm spice and dulled rose vacate, leaving remnants of the patchouli to support the now focal smooth vanilla with traces of the opoponax folded into the mix through the lengthy finish. Projection is good to very good and longevity outstanding at well over 20 hours on skin.
Hypnotizing Fire (and The Harmonist house in general) was a complete unknown to me as I was introduced to the perfume at my local Neiman Marcus while there to sample a completely different perfume. When the rep mentioned the house I was immediately skeptical, but one spray of Hypnotizing Fire made me a very quick believer. The perfume's published notes are pretty spot-on, with the real focus being some sublime soft patchouli, frankincense-like opoponax and smooth vanilla at its core. There isn't a lot of complexity, but while a relatively minimalist concoction, the obscure perfumer Guillaume Flavigny absolutely nails the execution of the top-notch quality ingredients. I wish the rest of The Harmonist house offerings I sampled impressed as much as this one, but while Hypnotizing Fire was the only winner I sniffed, it is superb smelling enough to hold up the small house on its merits alone. The bottom line is the $295 per 50ml refillable bottle Hypnotizing Fire certainly hypnotized this writer, earning an "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 rating and a strong recommendation, particularly to soft patchouli lovers who enjoy compositions like Javanese Patchouli by Zegna.
Synthetic Jungle opens with bitter green resinous galbanum with a supporting hyacinth infused lily-of-the-valley and banana-like ylang-ylang derived floral accord before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the perfume stays bitter green but smooths out as the lily-of-the-valley takes the fore in a big way, supported by remnants of the ylang-ylang and sanitized green jasmine. During the late dry-down the composition stays highly linear with the lily-of-the-valley finally ceding control to remnants of the green jasmine that co-star with thin, slightly musky patchouli through its lengthy finish. Projection is good to very good and longevity outstanding at over 20 hours on skin.
The name "Synthetic Jungle" doesn't exactly inspire one's champing at the bit to try the perfume based on name alone. The perfumer, Anne Flippo, is new to the Malle line and while quite prolific and in some cases successful sales-wise isn't much of a qualitative winner, at least not to the tastes of this writer. That said, name and perfumer aside, Frederic Malle tends to have a pretty good record of working with perfumers and having them produce their finest work, and in this case, Malle has successfully again directed a perfumer to qualitative success in Synthetic Jungle. No, this is no masterpiece like Portrait of a Lady, but lovers of green compositions - lily-of-the-valley primarily derived in particular, will find plenty to love here. Additionally, while the perfume obviously uses synthetics in its base to exhibit its crazy longevity metrics, it never comes off smelling synthetic at all despite this, and I would wager the name is less a descriptor for the ingredients used, more implying a "re-creation" of a jungle in the perfume. I am not sure if I personally smell a jungle when wearing "Synthetic Jungle," but it certainly smells plenty green and plenty good, enough to get me to buy a bottle. The bottom line is the $295 per 100ml bottle "very good" 3.5 stars out of 5 rated Synthetic Jungle is no masterpiece, but while highly linear and far from innovative, will appeal greatly and is recommended to lovers of all things green, particularly compositions like Malle's own Lys Mediterranee.
Eau de Mystique goes on with moderately deep rose, adding faint bitter orange support before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the rose turns more airy and thin, as the bitter orange vacates, replaced by moderately sweet, smooth honey and powdery floral heliotrope support. During the late dry-down the honey infused rose recedes considerably, as slightly powdery and sweet vanilla takes the fore, with animalic, amber-like styrax and dry sandalwood joining the remnants of the rose and honey in support through the finish. Projection is above average to good, and longevity outstanding at well over 20 hours on skin.
This is my first outing with house Wesker, and aside from the published notes on the perfume reviewed today looking interesting I really knew nothing of the house or Eau de Mystique going in. Now having worn the perfume a couple days straight, I am not particularly impressed, but far from disappointed. Eau de Mystique at its core is a fine powdery, airy rose infused by moderately sweet honey, taking a more animalic turn in the late dry-down. The perfume is well-done, polished and super-potent, but while Eau de Mystique does smell good, this writer can't help but wonder what the "Mystique" is in the composition, as powdery rose has been done competently so many times before, albeit maybe with less longevity. The animalic facet derived from the honey and styrax in the base really doesn't help matters, as I find it at best not adding to the perfume's appeal, and potentially slightly detracting. The bottom line is the $195 per 50 ml extrait concentration "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 rated Eau de Mystique is less mystical, and more iterative in its execution yielding a neutral recommendation.
Enclave goes on skin with a light, fresh spearmint with hints of soft cinnamon and cardamom spice before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the natural smelling spearmint remains, continued to be supported by the soft cinnamon and cardamom spice, but now also supported by translucent floral rose and warm saffron. This slightly fiery "red hots" overall accord gradually cedes to at first a supporting vague synthetic woody amber accord that increases in intensity over time to take over the starring role about midway into the heart. During the late dry-down the synthetic woody amber accord dominates, as the rose and mint vacate, leaving remnants of the saffron and cardamom spice remaining in support through the finish. Projection is excellent, and longevity outstanding at nearly 20 hours on skin.
When I heard Julien Rasquinet was the perfumer behind Enclave, I was excited. Mr. Rasquinet is a real up-and-comer, with already outstanding compositions like The Moon by Frederic Malle under his belt. If capable of that kind of work among many others of interest, Enclave should be a safe bet, no? Well, in a word, "*No.*" Things start off well enough, with a pretty enticing natural smelling spearmint and warm spice open... But when the spearmint and warm spice join a thin, transparent rose in the early heart the composition begins to smell like fiery red hots candy, but with an odd soft detergent-like floral bent. Things go from bad to worse when the *real* star of the show arrives... a vague synthetic smelling woody amber accord that starts off in the background, but gradually takes control and overpowers most of the other notes, save the warm spice. The bottom line is the $340 per 100ml bottle Enclave is probably the talented Julien Rasquinet's worst work, earning a "poor" 2 stars out of 5 rating and an avoid recommendation.
Liqueur Charnelle opens with a soft pink pepper and honeyed lemon resinous elemi before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the honeyed lemon elemi is still detectable, as a vague, moderately sweet red fruit laced boozy accord joins it in support of soft powdered blonde tobacco and vague synthetic woods that take the fore. During the late dry-down the perfume turns more dry and less sweet, as the boozy aspect vacates, leaving remnants of the now less synthetic smelling vague woods to meld with unveiled supporting black pepper and slightly creamy, tobacco and vanilla-like tonka bean in the base through the finish. Projection is below average and longevity excellent at over 12 hours on skin.
Liqueur Charnelle is just about the perfect model of what an "average" level of success smells like in a perfume. It has all the attributes of a winner, but the whole in this case is far less appealing than the individual parts. Supposedly the perfume is trying to emulate the general smell and appeal of Cognac liqueur (I guess with the drinker smoking a pipe), but while the perfume smells boozy and certainly the tobacco is there, it never really quite captures the spirit of the liqueur, or the tobacco for that matter. The primary spoiler is one that plagues so many other efforts... vague synthetic woods, in this case derived from norlimbanol. When done right, the stuff can be used to great effect, but alas here it is too strong, and gets in the way of the tobacco and the booze, ruining the illusion for the wearer and making them instead wonder why they wasted their money. The bottom line is the approximately $180 per 100ml bottle Liqueur Charnelle has some appealing notes in its published list, but the whole is much less than the sum of its parts in this "average" 2.5 stars out of 5 rated shoulder shrug, earning a disinterested avoid recommendation to all.
Warszawa goes on skin with a smooth, mostly sanitized peach infused jasmine combo before gradually transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the peach infused jasmine remains, now softened by supporting creamy orris butter and slightly orange dusty floral broom. During the late dry-down the peach vacates, as the remnants of the jasmine join soft woody vetiver in support of the now moderately powdery orris that becomes co-star, and the other co-staring spicy-ambery styrax through the lengthy finish. Projection is very good to excellent and longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
When I first applied Warszawa on skin I was ready to go out and buy a bottle on the spot. The perfume has a peach infused plum-like jasmine open that is sheer heaven, and reminds me more than a bit of vintage Poison by Dior, while adding some finesse for good measure. If the composition remained smelling this good, this would have been a major rave review to be sure. Alas, after about 30 minutes the orris from the heart gradually settles in and asserts itself, adding a slightly creamy powdery sheen that becomes significantly more powdery as the floral broom emerges another 30 minutes later. By the late dry-down the orris and now amber-like styrax kind of mar what was an all so promising start as the composition turns distinctly "feminine" leaning (not that I care), but more importantly quite powdery. No, Warszawa never goes powder *crazy,* but it is strong enough to bother this powder-averse writer, and I dare think others who dislike the stuff will be dismayed late as well. The bottom line is the $190 per 17.5ml extrait bottle Warszawa shows brilliant promise early, only to gradually devolve into a moderate powder ball, still earning a "very good" 3.5 stars out of 5 rating and a recommendation to all but the powder averse; particularly lovers of vintage Poison who want less projection than that powerhouse. Me? I'll stick to vintage Poison.
Derviche II opens with light floral citrus enhanced pineapple fruit, and just a hint of amber before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, it morphs to a woody focus, as likely faux Oud takes the fore with woody incense, warm saffron spice infused pipe tobacco and soft semi-sweet amber support. During the late dry-down, the faux oud vacates as the composition turns to a familiar mildly sweet vanilla and soft woody accord with the faint pipe tobacco remnants adding support through the finish. Projection is good to very good, and longevity excellent at over 12 hours on skin.
At first, I really didn't get the tie-in name, calling the composition Derviche II, because this follow-up perfume for a good part of the development smells quite different than the first Derviche effort. Derviche II, by contrast, is much more of a fruity-woody, with slightly synthetic smelling pineapple infusing synthetic smelling Oud that permeates the open and key middle section. Initially I didn't even notice the prominent tobacco found in the original, but it is there beneath the Oud if you look close enough. It is only when you get to the late dry-down that the tie-in with the first Derviche becomes all too apparent, as the perfumes smell almost identical at this point, and it probably is the best part of the two's development. I think it is safe to say that if you own Derviche, you can own Derviche II without major overlap, but the real question is "Should you?". I will leave that answer up to each individual wearer to decide, but I think one Derviche is enough for this writer. The bottom line is the $156 per 75ml bottle Derviche II is a major departure from the original for about the first six hours, but while competent, the "good" to "very good" follow-up effort feels different but unnecessary, yielding a neutral recommendation except to collection completionists.
Vetifleur opens with a slightly indolic jasmine and citrus bergamot tandem at the fore, with just a hint of underlying transparent vetiver in support before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the slightly indolic jasmine remains, now as co-star, joining slightly powdery, mildly creamy iris as its co-starring counterpart, with the citrus bergamot joining moderately lush rose, the earlier relatively transparent vetiver and now subtle natural smelling woods and mossy oakmoss in support, as the supporting notes gain a somewhat sharp green tinge. During the late dry-down the bergamot and rose vacate and the jasmine gradually wanes, leaving the vetiver to finally take the fore as it melds with the remnants of the mildly powdery iris, oakmoss and natural smelling cedarwood through the finish. Projection is excellent and longevity approaching outstanding at just over 15 hours on skin.
When I read the official note list to Vetifleur I was highly confident enough that I would enjoy the perfume that I bought a bottle blind, something I rarely do. That said, what I ended up smelling far exceeds even my already high expectations. After last year's (2020) perfume of the year offering in the jasmine soliflore Jasmin Antique it would seem crazy to believe lightening could strike twice with perfumer Manuel Cross delivering back-to-back masterpieces, but as unlikely an occurrence as it is, he has achieved just that, now with Vetifleur. I guess it should not be as much of a surprise as one might think when it is apparent Mr. Cross has borrowed heavily from his two previous best offerings in Chypre-Siam and Jasmin Antique, throwing in some relatively transparent bergamot laced vetiver a la Coeur de Vetiver Sacre (the masterpiece from L'Artisan that went largely unnoticed due to the vetiver being more transparent and not being as prominent as the name implied). With an amalgamation of those three terrific perfumes in perfect balance, how can one *not* score a grand slam? Make no mistake, getting that balance perfect is no small feat at all, and Mr. Cross has cemented his place as one of the best modern day perfumers I have ever come across in doing so. The bottom line is Vetifleur may not be the hardcore offering vetiver purists might expect, but the $156 per 75ml perfume is no less than a "masterpiece" 5 stars out of 5 rated early 2021 perfume of the year candidate from perfumer Cross that merits as strong a buy recommendation as I can muster to anyone with a pulse.
Spell 125 opens with a fine, radiant frankincense with underlying coniferous green pine before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the frankincense remains, first in support of the pine now coupled with slightly sweet leathery green coniferous black hemlock , then taking the fore again after about 30 minutes, as a faint, near-transparent doughy floral accord and a hint of the slightly sweet, smooth sandalwood rising from the base join the conifers in latent support. During the late dry-down the coniferous aspects gradually recede, leaving the frankincense and sandalwood tandem to dominate through the lengthy finish. Projection is good and longevity outstanding at nearly 24 hours on skin.
Spell 125's note list is just about as compelling as possible... frankincense, multiple coniferous greens, florals and sandalwood. I went into trying my sample prepared to love it, and certainly it has a lot of merit. Alas, while the radiant frankincense open is heavenly smelling, it somehow doesn't quite mesh with the coniferous green elements in the heart as much as I would have expected. There also is the dough-like aspect resembling yeast that is just a tad off-putting that takes you out of the spell 125 is trying to cast on the wearer. Then the perfume shifts gears to the sandalwood and the incense again during the late dry-down that seemingly lasts forever and smells great. On the whole, one has to call the perfume a success, but with a little more tinkering of the key heart accord it could have been really special, and that is a bit of a shame. The bottom line is the $215 per 50ml bottle Spell 125 captures the wearer in its captivating frankincense driven web, but the spell dissipates when the conifers and florals join-in, still yielding a "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 rated moderately successful effort and a modest recommendation.
Monogram opens with a highly aromatic lavender and sharp citrus bergamot tandem before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the bergamot vacates, as the now subdued lavender remains in support of the focal slightly animalic musk and soft patchouli tandem with additional natural smelling dark woods and oakmoss support. During the late dry-down the perfume turns quite musky as it sheds the remnants of the lavender, with the patchouli and oakmoss remaining in support through the finish. Projection is good and longevity excellent at over 12 hours on skin.
Monogram's history is rather sad. Ralph Lauren had such grand ambitions for it in the mid-eighties as a more refined, classy counter to their uber-successful original Polo offering, but alas the sales just weren't there, and the remaining inventory was sent back from stores in relatively short order, leaving most including this writer to never even sniff the stuff back then. Only recently having sampled the perfume decades later do I now know what I was missing, and while nowhere near the masterpiece of the original Polo, or even the next (successful smell-wise if not sales-wise) attempt about five years later for a more refined Polo in Polo Crest, Monogram definitely smells quite good and deserved a much better fate. I can definitely see the Polo counterpoint they were most likely going for despite any obvious Polo DNA, swapping musky patchouli for the coniferous focus of Polo, and when grouped with the lavender and woods it really works. I most surely would have bought a bottle, though I can easily see when it was released why original Polo probably just overpowered any chance for Monogram (critically missing the word Polo in its name) to breakout from its immense shadow and shine on its own merits. The bottom line is the $125 per 53ml bottle on the aftermarket "very good" to "excellent" 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 rated Monogram may have failed sales-wise, but definitely succeeds in its fine execution smell-wise, joining original Polo and Polo Crest as the three best (and only) superb offerings from Ralph Lauren, earning it a solid recommendation to collectors if you can find a bottle.
This stinker doesn't merit a full review with note breakdown, and since I threw out my sample months ago (as there was no review page up for it back then) I refuse to buy another, subjecting my nose to suffer through wearing Polo Cologne Intense again.
My mini-review instead follows:
I ended up buying a large sample to at least try (if anything swayed by the gorgeous classically styled bottle), and sadly this has none of the Polo DNA I wanted, instead I found it a closer acquaintance to more modern (bad) synthetic smelling perfumes like the godawful Sauvage by Dior. As time passes, it gets more and more synthetic smelling, crescendoing at levels bordering on the unbearable. While I certainly respect those that feel otherwise, I would have to say this smells horrible to me, yielding it a poor to very poor rating of 1.5 to 2 stars out of 5 and a strong avoid recommendation to lovers of vintage original Polo (Green) and others of its ilk, except if you solely want to collect its fine looking bottle.
Citrus Musk Cologne goes on with lemon and a hint of underlying lime support before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the lime vacates, as traces of the lemon remain, joining slightly sweet, fresh floral lily of the valley in subtle support of the now just slightly animalic soft musk that is unveiled as the focal note. The perfume stays highly linear through the relatively brief late dry-down, as the soft musk turns mildly powdery as time passes, never shedding its subtle lemon support through the finish. Projection is below average and longevity poor at around 2 hours on skin.
The perfume's title "Citrus Musk" pretty much sums up this one in a nutshell. Apart from some near-transparent lily of the valley in the heart, pretty much citrus and musk are all you get from top-to-bottom with near perfect linear progression. The musk is pleasant smelling, keeping to the barbershop roots of the Pinaud brand and it really is the focus of the perfume with the citrus used mainly to add a bit of subtle "flavor" to the mix. It should be noted the performance of this "cologne" is horrific and anyone wearing it should treat it more like an aftershave than an Eau de Cologne, but with a bottle size of 12.5 ounces, one can pretty much bathe in the stuff, and/or continually reapply throughout the day if they so choose. The bottom line is the $13 per 370ml bottle Citrus Musk Cologne is an uninspired but pleasant smelling perfume with terrible performance, earning a "good" 3 stars out of 5 rating and a tepid recommendation to all except barbershop value perfume collectors looking to buy a "cheapie."
Madras Cardamom opens with a very brief blast of sharp citrus bergamot that quickly couples with powerful nose tingling warm cardamom spice with a moderately sweet coffee-like accord undertone before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the warm cardamom spice from the open slightly softens, remaining in relative strength as the moderately sweet coffee-like accord gains potency as it becomes co-star, with significant just slightly synthetic smelling polished cedar wood support. During the late dry-down the cedar wood remains, shedding its detectable synthetic qualities, as remnants of the now significantly diminished coffee accord join with soft, non-powdery vanilla that becomes the star through the finish. Projection is good and longevity outstanding at over 20 hours on skin.
During my latest trip to Las Vegas I tried to hit the usual suspects to see if there were any relatively new releases of interest. Most of what I sniffed that was relatively new did not impress enough to merit further attention, but my trip to the Zegna store yielded a number of pleasant new surprises with its generally perpetually impressive private Essenze line, and Madras Cardamom led the pack, earning it a trial on skin for the day.
As soon as you spray Madras Cardamom on skin powerful warm cardamom spice asserts itself big time. It would be all too easy to have the spice get completely out of control, but the perfumer, Marie Salamagne, deftly uses a very unique smelling sweetened coffee-like accord to counter the warm spice without letting the sweetness go too far either. When cedar shows up in support, it first starts off with a bit of a synthetic bent but never in a bad way, only turning more natural smelling as time passes. By the time the perfume reaches its late dry-down the cedar, coffee and now vanilla all combine seamlessly to form an extremely pleasant smelling lengthy finish. It is safe to say that of all the new releases I tried during my Vegas trip Madras Cardamom was the most impressive. That said, I am a bit surprised at how much I love this one, as its semi-gourmand fragrance profile is definitely not a natural fit for my preferences. I can only credit some really good blending techniques by the perfumer to come up with such a winning concoction that won over this sweetness averse writer to even buy a bottle of the stuff. The bottom line is the $250 per 100ml EdP bottle "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rated Madras Cardamom is a superb example of a semi-gourmand that exudes refinement and class, able to even win over wearers that generally dislike the category, earning it a strong recommendation to all.
Orb_ital opens with a fresh, almost ozonic accord with moderately high pitched violet floral support before quickly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its heart the perfume morphs into a soft, warm woody incense affair with hints of frankincense, musk and sandalwood most prominent and just a hint of subtle warm chili pepper support. Things remain highly linear through the relatively short-lived late dry-down, as the warm, soft woods dominate through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity is well below average at around 4 hours on skin.
Orb_ital poses quite the quandary for this writer. The perfume really treads new grounds with its intentional synthetic signature called "Orbitone." In truth, I have no idea what Orbitone is, but it seems to present as woody, musky ozonic, and quite frankly very pleasant smelling. Add in some deftly integrated high pitched violet and some woody incense and you have the makings of a winner... Then, alas, things start to fall apart quickly. One of the expected benefits of using large amounts of synthetics in perfumery is to enhance performance, but Orb_ital really drops the ball in this camp. The perfume's longevity in particular is highly disappointing, and really doesn't allow it to hang around on skin long enough to develop much of any kind of late dry-down. So what starts off as innovative, showing great promise ends up in a bit of a let-down despite the perfume's successful fragrance profile on the whole. What a damn shame. The bottom line is the $165 per 100ml EdP bottle Orb_ital has a lot to recommend it, but its intentional liberal use of synthetics falls flat in the performance and development departments, yielding a "very good" 3.5 stars out of 5 rating but only a hesitant recommendation due to its flagging performance.
Norma Kamali Incense opens with an almost dark citrus fruit liquor-like copal, with a co-starring radiant dark, woody frankincense and myrrh tandem before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the fruity liquor of the copal dissipates as the radiant dark, woody frankincense and pine-like myrrh accord takes complete control, seeming to increase exponentially as it adds a cedarwood undertone. During the late dry-down, the progression remains highly linear as the dark woody incense holds throughout, losing its radiant power gradually as time passes through the finish. Projection is excellent to outstanding and longevity outstanding at nearly 24 hours on skin.
It took me many years to sample the near-legendary Norma Kamali Incense due to its "unicorn" status and sky high prices for even a small sample. One day, however, a generous discussion group member sent a sample to me along with some other rarities to get my nose on, and I am glad to finally do so... I guess now having worn the perfume a few times I can see the allure to pure dark incense lovers, as it is a *huge* rather stark, dark woody incense that projects for the first few hours like crazy, only gradually tamping down over time. To love this perfume you have to be fine with highly linear development, as apart from the interesting fruit liquor infused dark incense open, things don't change much from the relentless dark, cedarwood and pine-like incense and myrrh tandem that hammers the wearer into submission over time. In the case of this writer, I don't mind a linear progression, but the scent profile of this particular one is certainly top quality and impressive, but difficult to wear often or indeed at all. I find myself reaching for slightly less intense incense offerings like Incense Oud by Killian or even hardcore incense perfumes like Ma Nishtana by Parfum Prissana. That said, if you are looking for a "take no prisoners" dark woody incense that has legendary staying power it is hard to fault Norma Kamali Incense. The bottom line is the discontinued and extremely difficult to source on the aftermarket Norma Kamali Incense is a near-reference quality "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 rated dark linear incense that is recommended to those seeking a powerhouse dark incense, but those seeking finesse may want to look elsewhere for their incense fix.