Brooks Otterlake

Sandalwood & Cypress Cologne Intense by Art of Shaving

I don't get all of the notes listed in the pyramid, but I do get the chamomile, cypress, and the creamy synthetic sandalwood (which echoes that used in Pasha Parfum).

Considering the explicitly utilitarian purpose of the scent line, this feels like it delivers on the brief: a classy, modern grooming accessory that would never be out of place.

Retail pricing is a bit hard to swallow (better to just go with something truly exceptional, like Villoresi Sandalo), but discounted it's a fine pickup.
Nov 21, 2021


Patchouli Intense / Patchouli Homme by Nicolaï

As with many Nicolaï fragrances, you have to ignore the name. This is not a patchouli bomb. Nevertheless, this is one of the best from Nicolaï.

Patchouli Intense is a resolutely "French," dressed-up creamy blend of spices, florals, and a patchouli-amber base. The closest thing to it I've come across is Sheikh Al Faransi, which does a similar, albeit simpler, spicy-floral effect, but centers its base around ambergris.

The blending is artful, with a dense, layered set of notes that seem staged in an impressively precise dance. To pick out the individual notes here is less important than to enjoy the nuanced, dynamic contrasting levels of spicy and smooth, sweet and bitter. All of this unfolds without breaking its "starched shirt" classicism.

I find myself returning to Nicolaï's fragrances again and again because they are the rare modern works of perfumery that feel as though they have been truly finessed in that old, wonderful Guerlain way. They are thoughtfully calibrated and carefully controlled.
Nov 20, 2021


Dark Horse by Dame Perfumery

A dark, smooth vanilla scent with woody and floral tones. It's tightly blended, so the spices and woods don't have a distinct aromatic effect and function more as shaders of the core coumarin/vanilla.

Dark Horse sits somewhere in that Baldessarini Strictly Private/Dior Homme Intense/Tom Ford Noir Extreme space, though it skews a touch more casual than those.

On skin, I do find this to wear fairly sweet, so this is one for those who don't mind a proper gourmand touch in their fragrances.
Nov 18, 2021


Spigo by Odori

The reviews here are fairly muted, and, indeed, this is certainly a reworking of Caron pour Un Homme. If originality is key for you, yes, look elsewhere.

Thankfully for me, Spigo's recalibration of the Caron's structure is to my taste. The musky, doughy vanilla of Caron pour Un Homme has always been too thick and cloying to me.

Spigo's vanilla base is airier and lighter; it doesn't overtake the aromatic lavender or the citrus, making this a fresher, more aromatic version of Caron pour Un Homme, retaining its timeless simplicity but substituting its stereotypically French denseness for a stereotypically Italian aromatic approach.
Nov 13, 2021


Sundowner by Tauer

Sundowner has a delightfully dynamic first fifteen or twenty minutes.

Initially, I get a flash of cinnamon-infused "peach cobbler" that lasts only a minute before it moves into a leathery-tobacco-fruit phase that reminds me a little of Maher Olfactive Treachery.

After ten minutes or so, it shifts into a mode that I can only describe as a refined, more floral version of Aramis Havana's drydown - a lively, spicy tobacco with a sweet, dusty air (the dusty feel comes from the cacao, I expect). A floral honey note flits in and out and becomes increasingly notable.

It's lovely and would be very easy for nearly anyone to wear.
Nov 5, 2021


Lalique Le Parfum by Lalique

Dominique Ropion's talent for blending is greatly in effect here. This is a boozy Shalimar descendant that leaves the smoky leather and old-school musk behind, and carrying forward that powdery, sparkling, non-edible vanilla. Bay leaf, heliotrope, jasmine, and a hint of patchouli layer in nuance and support.

That bay leaf, which is quite prominent to start, along with the boozy tones, pushes this over towards unisex territory (anyone who would wear Tom Ford Noir EDP could easily wear this; in fact, this would make a nice "daytime" companion to the decidedly more evening-friendly Noir EDP).
Nov 3, 2021


Colonia Leather by Acqua di Parma

Demachy's work for Acqua di Parma is overall very commendable, and Colonia Leather is one of the very best versions of the "suederal"-style leather introduced and popularized by Tuscan Leather.

An exuberant citrus-herbs bouquet leads us into this smooth, sophisticated, dry leather, helping give it a bit of EDC refreshment and establishing s connective throughline back to the Colonia namesake. But that leather--mostly stripped of the bombastic smoke and raspberry--emerges, dry and dusty, a bit like the smell of shoe polish. It's refined and sophisticated, a suit-and-tie fragrance if there ever was one, just with a bit of Italian rakishness to liven it up and keep it from getting too serious.

The only downside is its linearity, but that's a small price to pay for its achievements.
Nov 1, 2021


Vanille by L'Aromarine

As Scentsitivity said, this is very "vanilla cake batter"-y. This is a bourbon vanilla extract scent, very realistic and foody.

A waxy tone eventually enters in (as it does with many vanilla scents) and reveals its artificiality.
Oct 31, 2021


La Yuqawam pour Homme by Rasasi

It's been a long time since I sampled Tuscan Leather proper, but I remember it feeling smokier than this. Maybe memory is deceiving me.

Anyway, it's similar enough. On my skin, La Yuqawam is a creamy raspberry fog with flickers of animalic suede leather popping up in the midst of it. It all hangs together fairly well and if that suederal leather accord is your thing, this is the best value in town.
Oct 29, 2021


Treachery Extrait de Parfum by Maher Olfactive

I'm starting to get a hang on this one, but it's very unique, unique enough to throw this lover of tobacco notes and boozy notes for a loop.

To love Treachery, you have to enjoy fruity notes, because the prominent throughline here is a kind of "stewed apricots" accord in the heart along with a potent booziness. Wrapped around that is oakwood and a dusty, woody pipe tobacco accord.

It's somewhat like the morning after a decadent evening, when the excitement has faded away and you're left with the remainders of an apricot cobbler on plates, some pipe tobacco that spilled from someone's tin, and the remnants of liquor in glasses.
Oct 23, 2021


Old Havana by Solstice Scents

Something of a superior, more natural-smelling take on the Nishane Fan Your Flames, Solstice Scents Old Havana is a creamy blend of coconutty woods, generous lime, and earthy tobacco.
Oct 22, 2021


Dior Homme Parfum by Christian Dior

As far as I'm concerned, this is "nice," rather than great.

Conventional citrus and an unexciting iris note introduce this note, while a vague, somewhat annoying sweetness comes in (there's a thin vanilla note in the background).

Character and depth comes in once the soft, supple leather accord makes itself known, though it never comes through strong enough to overcome the sweet fog surrounding it. Still, it's a nice effect.
Oct 20, 2021


Velvet Incenso by Dolce & Gabbana

Incense perfumes are rarely as well-balanced as this one, which marries complexity with everyday versatility.

This a smoky, comforting, dry, woody experience, with a comforting cloud of frankincense wrapped around a non-gourmand, pleasant amber supported with pepper, resins, and patchouli.

There's a slightly luxe, modern feeling to it that helps balance out the churchy, spiritual associations of incense. There's nothing ostentatious about this, though, despite its commendable longevity. Velvet is a fairly good term to evoke its softness (nothing sharp or prickly here). It remains relatively cool without ever verging on the austere.
Oct 17, 2021


Alford & Hoff by Alford & Hoff

Baldessarini Baldessarini, Vera Wang for Men, Tom Ford for Men,
The One - if you've smelled those fruity-woodyamber masculines from the 2000s, you know what Alford & Hoff Signature is doing.

It feels like an also-ran in the subgenre despite a fairly nice, slightly mineral-feeling mid and spicy drydown just because it presents with no distinctive effect or accord (like Vera Wang's yuzu overdose opening) that might make it stand out from the pack.
Oct 16, 2021


Nanban by Arquiste

Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a stunningly talented perfumer, especially when he is given sufficient freedom to play, and Arquiste has given him a lot of slack, resulting in such accomplished creations as Èl and Anima Dulcis. Arquiste Nanban is yet another success, a dense, complex shapeshifter built primarily around creamy woods and incense.

Nanban opens strong. Those familiar with the "Spanish leather" accord in Carner Barcelona Sandor 70's (also by Flores-Roux) will certainly recognize it here, infused with florals and ornamented with peppery spice. There's a bit of a "classic perfume" current running through this opening phase (as there is running through much of Flores-Roux's work for Arquiste) and then the myrrh comes to wrap it all in a gentle cloud, and it develops into the fragrance that it will be for the bulk of its lifespan.

At the heart of Nanban is a milky sandalwood effect, and refracted through it is tea and coffee and resins, all of which will appear one moment and be gone the next, as if phasing in and out of existence throughout Nanban's lifespan. As the incense becomes more significant it develops the feeling of an old church or library: books, wood, and incense.

The late drydown lays bare some of the woodyambers used to create the sandalwood and resin effects. It's not punchy enough to be unpleasant, but it's a touch disappointing in its lack of depth (especially given the more interesting phases that precede it).
Oct 13, 2021


Sacred Memory by Kerosene

This is red wine and charred wood for the bulk of its lifespan (after the funky, musky opening fades). A dark, fruity, mysterious scent that would equally suit a vampire or a rock star.
Oct 11, 2021


Au Coeur du Desért by Tauer

For me, Au Coeur du Désert is as good as ambers get. This is a less aromatic, less sweet, richer variation of the concept Tauer explored in L'Air du Désert Marocain. It's dusty, dry, smoky, and endlessly fascinating.
Oct 9, 2021


La Habana by 19-69

The house of 19-69 doesn't get much talk, but my impression is mostly positive. Its offerings are modern and polished without shying away from some weirder accords and facets (in the vein of D.S. & Durga).

The ad copy on this one is all about Cuba, and there's an overall rum-and-tobacco impression about it, but structurally it's actually more of an oud scent than anything.

La Habana offers notes of saffron, incense, resins, oud, "wood chip"-style cedar, and a bitter caramel base. The cedar is very prominent and animalic at the start but softens into a "cedar bedding" effect on top of which the nicely filled-out oud accord rests, with there being a slight candle wax feel that emerges in the drydown (coming from the "caramel" listed in the note pyramid; it's dark and a touch sticky). The weirder facets of the oud aren't loud but aren't disguised, either.

Maybe more "interesting" than brilliant, but commendable nonetheless.
Oct 8, 2021


Oudh Al Boruzz Abeer Malaysia by Rasasi

An opulently boozy, multifaceted experience with a dark, dense heart, this ode to Malaysian oud reveals unique facets as it evolves on skin.

Those dried fruits come out strong in the somewhat piercing opening, with a heavy dash of nutty, sour oud and a rough, IBQ-infused ashy leather that helps carry this through the mid and drydown, where the tonka and tobacco (a calm, smoky effect, like the lingering memory of tobacco smoke) come out to play with a bit of "head shop" style patchouli. Floral notes dance in and out throughout, more as blending agents than as distinct components of the composition.

It's impossible to fault the quality, but it's definitely bold, statement making stuff that is likely to be polarizing unless the idea of dark, stewed fruits with a smoky oud-leather-tobacco feeling strikes your fancy.
Oct 5, 2021


Tom Ford Noir by Tom Ford

The year was 2012. Tom Ford grabbed a bottle of Shalimar off of his shelf and wondered how it would be received as a masculine release in a post-Dior Homme market. Noir EDP was born.

That's a slight exaggeration, but Noir EDP is Shalimar at its heart, albeit darkened and modernized. There's considerably less baby powder, a slight dose of gothic rosiness, and heavy emphasis on dark resins and dirty patchouli (which, along with geranium and vetiver, dominate the drydown).

Considered as a modern Shalimar flanker, it's a worthy remix. This complex blend shifts the balance, but does nothing to diminish the integrity of the composition. Its discontinuation speaks to its failure to capture the heart of the market, but the surviving Noir pour Femme carries on some echoes of it (Noir Extreme, on the other hand, has more kinship to Spicebomb than Shalimar).
Sep 14, 2021


Fan Your Flames by Nishane

The opening teases a dirty-sweet accord with some genuine complexity, but this gradually yields to a shallow, cloying, synthetic sweetness.
Sep 8, 2021


Bowmakers by D.S. & Durga

An exquisite, slightly boozy, cedar scent with that "rustic" air that defines the house. If you're looking for a "niche" cedar, you can't do much better.
Sep 7, 2021


Pasha Parfum by Cartier

A boozy, coconutty synth-sandalwood with a bit of tastefully applied spice. It's straightforward, but still elegant and pleasing. It displays a refinement and style that doesn't often show up in mainstream designer releases, suggestive of more niche profiles.

Laurent's composition nods to the original Pasha in a few respects (the spiciness in the opening, the sort of creamy sensation in the mid), but it isn't a meaningful sibling and is better regarded as a standalone.
Aug 19, 2021


Philosykos Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

I am puzzled to see so many describe this as earthy and challenging. Philosykos seems to me be far from the sour-milk textures of Giacobetti's prior ode to fig, Premier Figuier, which does seem destined to cause bystanders to raise an eyebrow.

Philosykos more wearable, a pleasantly leafy, creamy, coconutty scent with some spicy woods adding contrast. There are some parallels to the also very good Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme.
Aug 14, 2021

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