Brooks Otterlake

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


Pour Un Homme Millésime 2014 by Caron

This Millisime release features the best, most vivid lavender note I've encountered in perfume, and it adds a sparkling dimension to this classic composition.

It's otherwise quite close to the current version of the original, less of a reinvention of the base formula than it is a subtle enhancement with slightly higher-grade materials. That familiar doughy, musky vanilla base is very much in evidence; despite other comments that this is somehow "modernized," this still feels decidedly old-fashioned and perfumey to me in that 1930s way.

I find that vanillic base a little tedious over long-term wear (and have the same issue with the original), but this more than merits a thumbs-up due its exceptional quality.
Aug 3, 2021


One Man Show Oud Edition by Jacques Bogart

It feels cheap and synthetic to start, with an abstract fruity-sweetness, but mellows into a commendable ashy oud accord that is a more direct version of the same accord used in many more expensive creations. It's more "good for the money" than purely "good."
Jul 29, 2021


Aramis Modern Leather by Aramis

The most generic of the trilogy of themed Aramis scents from recent years (the other two being Tobacco Reserve and Special Blend), although it's just nice enough to get a thumbs-up.

Given the date of release, one would be forgiven for suspecting that this would follow the vein of Tuscan Leather or Dark Rebel in the creation of a leather accord, Modern Leather has no connection to either. It's neither very modern nor very leather-y.

Modern Leather strikes me as mostly being about a watery violet, a kind of barbershoppy, more old-school Hommage a L'Homme. Violet strangely isn't listed in the note pyramid, but gives the composition a fruity touch, balanced by basil and some danker elements like patchouli, which become more dominant as it develops on skin.
Jul 29, 2021


Italian Cypress by Tom Ford

A case of a fragrance unicorn actually being worth the hype (some of it, anyway), this is a gorgeous Z-14 riff that takes that DNA in a dark, smoky, woody direction. (Floris 1962 takes the same DNA but goes more citric/green.) The result is more spellbinding and fascinating, if less wearable, than the Halston original, and surely ranks among the best of the everything-old-is-new-again powerhouse revival fragrances to be released by a luxe-niche house as a statement-making object d'art.

In a way, the smoky, spicy darkness and the powerhouse overtone makes this a Noir Anthracite predecessor, though it has nothing of Noir Anthracite's biomechanical tone.
Jul 13, 2021


Noir Exquis by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Noir Exquis was released the same year as Carlisle, Noir Extreme, Spicebomb Extreme, By The Fireplace, and many others in a smoky tonka gourmand style. Noir Exquis very much belongs in that family, but it's also the best of that particular pack by virtue of compositional refinement and raw quality.

If Noir Exquis finds perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour operating in a fairly mass-appealing mode, there's still some welcome nuance in this multi-faceted creation. The bitterness and woodiness of the chestnut and coffee notes help balance out some of the sweetness, wrapped in a smoky darkness that avoids any aromachemical harshness. A maple booziness that drifts in and out, adding the autumnal feeling.

Given what prices this can be found at from discounters, Noir Exquis is a no-brainer pickup for anyone who wants a thoughtfully composed contemporary gourmand for the autumn months (especially if any of the scents mentioned at the start of my review were under consideration).
Jul 12, 2021


Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

A coconut-infused, caramel vanilla with a salty-waxy undertone providing some contrast (the waxiness also imbues it with a "scented candle" aura).

This serves as a higher-end variation on a Bath & Body Works-esque "cake frosting" style of fragrance with a good dash of niche-y "weirdness" thanks to an animalic, acrid undercurrent that emerges primarily in the opening and then afterwards only upon close inspection.

More of a curiosity than a revelation, but also a good example of a perfumer smuggling some decidedly off-kilter elements into a fragrance that might otherwise feel very mass-market.
Jul 10, 2021


Ummagumma by Bruno Fazzolari

Opens with a short-lived blast of "Christmas candle" that suggests a spiced gourmand, but really this settles into a woody, sticky blend of tobacco and incense. Gorgeous stuff, really.
Jul 6, 2021


Beau de Jour by Tom Ford

A well-made retro-fougere that hearkens back to 70s/80s fougere styles (as opposed to the more "classical" styles of the early twentieth century fougeres), but with the mossy/ashy skank dialed back to accommodate present-day tastes.

It's a great option for the market as it stands today, though is likely to be less novel to those who have extensively sampled or collected fougeres from the eras to which it tips its hat.
Jun 25, 2021


Vetiver pour Homme Cologne by Roja Dove

The opening is nice, the drydown is harsh. With the vast number of vetiver scents in the world, it's impossible to recommend this one as the one to get.
Jun 22, 2021

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