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Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince

My first thought on spraying Enchanted Forest was that it smells like Enya. Winter Enya, specifically the "On My Way Home" video where she is Anna Karen-Enya on a snowbound train wrapped in white furs and turban, reliving sepia-toned holiday memories of pine forests and paper lantern Christmas ornaments. Enya is one of my favorite pop artists ever, so the fact that Enchanted Forest conjured the Enya world so effortlessly and effectively pleased me immensely.
There is a wonderfully dirty castoreum-pine effect at the beginning that is like Yatagan. The rest of the perfume is built on a contrast of sour blackcurrant, my favorite perfume fruit, and misty, bitter pine and moss effects. Something I find impressive is how it makes fruit and holiday trappings smell so staid and masculine.
I'd like if the woodsy elements were bolder--more patchouli, more castoreum, more grass--but this is a beautiful and unique perfume for those like me who enjoy bitter blackcurrant of the type found in Magie Noire and L'Ombre dans L'Eau, truly an Eau d'Enya.


Knowing by Estée Lauder

Knowing is one of the few fragrances I wear where straight men stop and ask what wonderful "cologne" I'm wearing. It is highly unusual for heterosexual men to stop a 6'4" male stranger and tell him he smells good, so it must really pique their curiosity. The current formula is more streamlined, bitter, and dry than before--fine with me--which causes it to edge more toward Bandit and perhaps more suitable for masculine wear. It's an intelligent scent that conveys a degree of sexiness while remaining nicely aloof. Additionally, it's one of the few remaining real French (though parodoxically American in origin) chypres still on department store shelves. Like Aromatics, it seems to have a devoted cult following and still sells well, as evidenced by the fact that Lauder didn't relegate it to the "House of Lauder" collection recently as it did all its other older scents. The original ad with Paulina Porizkova, arms crossed in a tuxedo, is one of my favorites. The fact that it's a ripoff of the Deneuve No. 5 ads from the 70s doesn't detract one bit. There aren't smart ads for smart perfumes for smart women in tuxedos anymore.


MAAI by Bogue Profumo

Maai smells expensive and like something produced before allergen regulations. How the oakmoss and civet smell (are?) so real and are used in such quantities, I do not know. The problem to me is that it smells like an imitation of old fragrances rather than a new one. Perhaps I am too susceptible to marketing, image, and stories attached to perfume but wearing this is not nearly as pleasing as wearing actual La Nuit, Montana, Kouros or what have you. It feels incomplete. It has no history. ELDO Rien is a similar old-style opulent chypre but it is its own entity, and its cast of rubber and tar over aldehydic floral make it feel modern rather than a dogmatic imitation of the past. My first thought on smelling Maai was not that it was incredible, but that it smelled uncannily like Marilyn Miglin Pheromone or Charlie. Actually, my first thought was "Aviance Night Musk!" I have never smelled Aviance Night Musk, but Maai smelled like my mental image of Aviance Night Musk, if that makes any sense, something from 1980 that would've been advertised with an image of Dressed to Kill pantyhose legs in heels. It almost has a feminine bowling alley dowdiness to it. It feels bizarre to pay $300 for Marilyn Miglin Pheromone. In ten years if they still make this and all the real chypres are gone, we'll see how I feel. On another note, the perfumer himself, Antonio Gardoni, is very nice to look at. Perhaps if I smelled Maai emanating from his chest hair it would not make me think of Sally Struthers in Five Easy Pieces so much.


Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens

As a lover of animalic rose chypres, I had high hopes for this; I was already fantasizing about it becoming my mysterious and elegant signature scent, how I would pretend it was Nombre Noir. While it is beautiful, it is simply too quiet to be worth its $300 price tag. Perhaps if I could purchase it in Paris where Lutens bell jars are about $150 I would spring for it, but the import cost is obscene.
The reputed strangeness of Rose de Nuit is dependent on the wearer never having smelled an 80s rose chypre. If you are familiar with Montana, Coriandre, La Perla, La Nuit, Magie Noire, Paloma Picasso, Aromatics Elixir, Knowing, Aramis 900, even Agent Provocateur, Rose de Nuit will seem like a disappointingly quiet and short-lived version of those with an admittedly gorgeous silky texture and top-notch raw materials. If you are not, it will probably blow your mind as rose chypre accords did when I first smelled them. It is an exotic odor often termed "old lady" but framed with cool Lutens opulence and exclusivity that make it palatable and mysterious. It's like how someone who has never seen a truly out-there inscrutable art movie (Andrei Rublev, Persona, Melancholie der Engel) would have their minds blown by, say, It Follows. Rose chypres are shocking to modern noses because millennials, having grown up with no fragrance except the occasional calone or Iso E, simply can't comprehend someone choosing to smell like that.

Still, if I make my way to Paris, I may buy a bottle. The prospect of dumping it on copiously from a bell jar is appealing.


Alien by Thierry Mugler

What I love most about Alien is how 80s-minded it is. The purple grape hairspray quality of it is reminiscent of both Giorgio and Poison, but it smells completely modern. The jasmine in it smells electric and opulent and the woody drydown adds a warm fuzz to the cold, mentholated florals. The way it bounces around the room is really amazing--my boyfriend was wearing it when I came home one day and watching The Hunger. It went perfectly with the movie--stylish, cold, pleasantly empty. I love it for being the only thing on the market this loud that I still commonly smell on people, even in largely fragrance-free Austin. If you wear it, wear a lot of it. It needs to be oversprayed for that wonderful narcotic effect. I like it on women, but it's possibly even better on men.


Poison by Christian Dior

Proto-Lutensian medicinal purple tuberose apothecary syrup, at once radiantly whorey and ascetically anti-food anti-joy anti-sex antisocial. I have come to prefer the current EDT to the old Esprit de Parfum because it is drier and gets to the resinous-sticky incense musk drydown a little faster. For me, sometimes nothing but Poison will do when I am feeling prickly, edgy, unapproachable. I am young enough not to have formed downmarket associations with Poison because of its popularity in the 80s, so it is more austere, medieval, cruel and anticipatory of Serge Lutens to me than it is shoulder pads and Dynasty. Some facet of the tuberose smells strongly of blood at the opening. A disturbing favorite.

The drydown of the latest reformulation of Poison now smells like L'Air du Desert Marocain, and it's lovely--that same incense/wood/musk. The first few hours it is unmistakably Poison, but the 80s synth-fruit recedes more than it used to. Tania Sanchez noted this as an improvement in one of the updates to The Guide. As for tenacity--when you spray it on, you expect that it will be fleeting as modern reformulations of powerhouses go, but it just keeps coming back and sticks to everything. It can be headachey--strong florals all go headachey on me--but Poison is one of the best reformulations on the market. I love Poison and used to make myself sick with the Esprit de Parfum, which die-hards must experience for the full story, but I am really liking how this new one fades down.


Jules by Christian Dior

Unlike a few years ago, Jules can be bought now for $100-150, standard department store/niche price, and lord, is it worth it. There is nothing that smells like this. While most macho fougeres of the 80s (Polo, Quorum) have been noticeably cheapened, Jules still smells rich, natural, and expensive. It has the sour herbal animal hit of Paloma Picasso. It has the grassiness of Aromatics Elixir without the overbearing aldehydes that eventually made me give up on it. Its lasting power is phenomenal. The name and the advertising image are delightful. With Jules, you feel like you truly have in your hands a high quality, rare French perfume that someone brought you back from a European vacation. Along with Kouros and Yatagan, this is one of the three best masculines on the market and one of most well-preserved pre-00s perfumes altogether. As of the last time I went in 2013 you could still get it at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco for $70, the only US outlet for it that I know of.

Sidenote: I smelled it on a rich man while eating oysters at a fancy restaurant in Austin, where I live. I couldn't believe my nose, but that's what it was.


Terre d'Hermès by Hermès

It's loaded with Iso E Super so people without an interest in fragrance will tell you you smell good, if that's what you're after. Calone or Iso E = compliments. Okay, I'll be in the other room stinking of Amouage Gold which everyone hates but which makes me feel like the evil prepubescent maharajah from Temple of Doom, whatever.

Really, it smells good but ZZZZzzzzzzzzzz. Feels like something given to men who will never wear it except on "special occasions" which just means they'll never wear it.


Peau d'Espagne / Spanish Leather by Santa Maria Novella

I haven't yet met another person that likes the smell of this, but god I love it! It's like mentholated smoked ham! Santa Maria Novella fragrances so reliably elicit perturbed "What ARE you wearing!" responses that it makes me laugh. People hate it but it smells wonderful. I like to think this is the Peau d'Espagne Molly Bloom remembers wearing in the last chapter of Ulysses. Wear it for yourself. "What IS THAT you are wearing!" like it's a personal affront. Mmmmmmm, soapy tarry fatty medicated meat strips. Glorious.


Giorgio for Men by Giorgio Beverly Hills

I'm addicted to Giorgio. I had a bottle years ago and gave it away, feeling I had enough patchouli scents (as if). On impulse I bought another for $15 and I keep gravitating toward it instead of my bottles that cost 8 times as much. It's a fresh, sweet honey rose patchouli that lasts a good while and dries down to a soapy, leathery musk. The treacly, medicinal combination of honey and patchouli with an inedible swampiness reminds me of what used to draw me to Angel. The absence of oakmoss in newer bottles doesn't bother me, as this makes the drydown less dated and powdery. On top of that, I love the yellow and white striped Giorgio 80s *persona*, and there are multiple bottles of GBH on Xander Berkeley's sink in Todd Haynes's SAFE, my favorite film. I get panics about Elizabeth Arden discontinuing this even though there are enough bottles of it in circulation to perfume the entire country for decades. It's like, what if I'm suddenly plunged into poverty and can only spend $20 a year on fragrance? I'd definitely choose Giorgio.


Bijan for Men by Bijan

I bought a mini of this from the saddest place on earth, Burlington Coat Factory, because of my love of garish 80s things. It is so tawdry and sleazy I actually had a mundane realistic nightmare I owned a large bottle of it and everyone hated me. I like smelling it--it's sort of a Tabu for men, sneezy peppery patchouli and dusty spices blared at shocking volume, with plenty of the plastic note that makes many otherwise interesting cheap perfumes unwearable. The first time I smelled it I thought, "This is like if Designer Imposter Magie Noire from the 80s was sprayed on a male crotch," so there is certainly something sexually suggestive about it. I like it but it's embarrassing, so I just sniff at it or wear it on walks. As with the similarly bowling alley-ish Ceasar's Palace perfumes, there are bizarre pallet loads of it in grim overstock stores. Where do they come from? Who buys it? There is so much of it!


Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent

Kouros is still my favorite masculine on the market and, along with Yatagan, the best deal. If you love the smell, it becomes truly addictive, and the clean-dirty dichotomy present in all my favorites--Angel, Amouage Gold, Yatagan--is key to my continued fascination.
After coming to terms with how excellent the "new" Opium actually is, I felt compelled to purchase a fresh bottle of Kouros. I was familiar with a post-2010 version from an ex-boyfriend who had it. It smelled like Kouros, sure, but had an almost bubblegum sweet quality to it and less complexity. I remember the bottle being plastic and cheap-looking.
Maybe I'm crazy, but the new bottle I received from Amazon (dated 2014) seems leagues better than what I smelled last year. The packaging has changed, I assume to coincide with the launch of Kouros Silver. Regardless of the ho-humness of that flanker, I'm glad that they're giving more attention and a new advertising campaign to Kouros. This new bottle is white glass without silver shoulders, and it looks expensive and well designed, not like a cost-cutting measure as the first L'Oreal ones did. The logo has been slightly modernized and "Eau de Toilette" is gone. The box it came in is shiny navy and silver foil, different from the brighter blue ones I've purchased in the past.
Most importantly, it smells excellent and lasts forever! The thin sweetness I detected with the plastic bottle my ex had is gone. It's not as strong as my first bottle, but it's gorgeous and smells exactly as Kouros should. It lasts through an entire work day, fading into a nice clean floral musk at the end. The shocking trademark Kouros sensation of a musky man wearing a soapy floral perfume is there--at times I was even reminded (positively) of Giorgio, like a dirty man had sprayed on Giorgio.
I think YSL took customer complaints seriously and improved the formula for the launch of the flanker. Kouros Silver may have been a blessing in disguise.


Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

I can't say enough good things about post-2010 Opium. Yes, I went through bottles of the vintage, but the fact is this just smells wonderful on men and women, lasts forever, and retains the character of the original. When you smell it, there is no doubt it is Opium. If it were marketed under a different name it would be hailed as a glorious, baroque throwback oriental. You can achieve the effect of the original by just wearing more. My dirty laundry all smells of sandalwood incense weeks later. I get told I smell like leather and incense.The powder effect that got "old lady" comments is reduced and the myrrh and incense amped up. This is more wearable in 2015 but still strange enough that you will stand out from the aquatic and Iso E cedar crowd and people with dull minds and uninteresting taste will wish you wore something else. I actually admire YSL's honesty in changing the bottle, making it easier to discern between new and old. Treasure this while we have it.


Gold Man by Amouage

This is the most luscious, creamy civet incense floral around and if you love it you can never get enough. I wear it all the time and for every occasion--who besides celebrities and millionaires has formal occasions to attend? It smells like a pristine cream-colored bar of extremely expensive soap, and then it becomes rougher and crumblier as the civet, oakmoss, and patchouli dry out.

It requires a lot of confidence to wear it, because everyone around you (unless by some miracle you know another person with interesting taste in perfume in real life) will say you smell like baby powder and wish you were wearing something:

-with copious Iso E Super
-aquatic, Acqua di Gio

Ignore them. Amouage Gold is more beautiful than anything anyone else is wearing, and you'll know it. Don't let them pull you down. I don't feel like wearing Iso E Super fragrances all the time, and when normal people deliver compliments, 9 times out of 10 that's what they're complimenting. No.


Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche

Drakkar Noir is wonderful! I used up a bottle without even thinking about it, cause it's just such a versatile fragrance, good for day, night, winter, summer, anytime. People always compliment it without recognizing it. No one wears it anymore since it's been a meme for try-hard male sleaziness via jokes on various television shows for 20+ years. I first smelled it on a gorgeous, smartly dressed young guy and couldn't believe it when he told me it was Drakkar Noir. It smells a lot like Paloma Picasso, with a dry mossy patchouli leather and a soapy character. There is a fun gourmand movie popcorn accord in there too. People will pay so much for these allegedly daring niche animalic leather chypres when this is around, everywhere, for no money and in great shape. Would be especially good on a woman.


Paloma Picasso / Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso

Current formulation is fantastic and you basically can't get anything else like this, of this quality, for so little money. Don't bother hunting after the old stuff unless you just happen upon it, it's not necessary. As with the current Magie Noire, if this were packaged with a Serge Lutens label it would be acclaimed as a stunning animalic throwback. Paloma smells very much like itself and nothing else--sour soapy floral chypre over woody honeyed animalic base. Great on a guy, great sillage, great longevity. Go to TJ Maxx and get it.


Giò by Giorgio Armani

Has a great David Lynch commercial, but it's in the Crystal Light Nutrasweet fruity floral early 90s style of Eternity, Tresor, Liz Claiborne, and Amarige. There were so many of these.


Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood

I'm very happy to see Boudoir is still in production. It was weird and ahead of its time-- a toothpaste and makeup oriental. I guess this was sort of spinning off on the popularity of Jean Paul Gaultier's original 90s makeup fragrance. As for the skank, I had an old bottle and never noticed it.


Nu Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent

This one was great! Back like 6 years ago they'd have pallet loads of it at outlet malls on clearance. No one wanted it. It's extremely similar to Kingdom-- big opaque all-basenotes incense affair. I suppose it was confusing to people that this Cleopatra barge oriental was marketed as "Nude." I guess Tom Ford enjoyed doing this since his similar Youth-Dew tribute was also called "Nude." I honestly didn't know that it was marketed to women until I saw this--I thought it was another unisex experiment.

I just can't believe how interesting department store fragrances were in the early 00s, right before the IFRA apocalypse. They all failed and were discontinued, of course, but still.


Oud 27 by Le Labo

A fun musky incense rose oud with a shock opening. I bought a small bottle of this that I went through about 1/4 of before giving it away to a friend that liked it. At the end it began to feel dated. How about that--oud started to feel so dated in 2015 that I didn't want to wear it, despite that I have never smelled an oud fragrance on a living person besides my sister, since no one wears anything at all. Still, oud and Iso E cedar have become the ubiquitous "last decade" fragrances.


L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris

"That's some cologne you've got on." -Grindr trick, grimacing as I got into his car wearing this.

I liked it a lot more when I first tested it and liked it enough to use up half a bottle but it started to seem metallic and thin in that modern "niche perfumer tinkering with unconvincing synthetic civet and flat treemoss aromachemicals for pixelated 'vintage' shock value" way after awhile. It completely ceased to smell dirty to me, in fact it smelled more dry and powdery. Nice, but overpriced.


Patchouli by Santa Maria Novella

Contrary to what most people say, I do think it's a complex fragrance, not just a high-quality patchouli oil. It is a stunning high-quality patchouli, but there is also a definite rose note to me, and a powdery musky base that runs through most SMN perfumes. It falls flat on me in cold weather but blossoms in heat, always garnering compliments. It has the "ancient medicine" unsexy quality that I like so much in SMN fragrances.

Another thing-- it smells much better to me when splashed on like aftershave. When sprayed, it is overly swampy and cold.


Black Afgano by Nasomatto

My stylish bohemian sister wears this stuff. It's a pleasure to be around because it's very 80s--despite all the drug/niche/edgy marketing it presents itself like Samsara with the gourmand elements removed. It's very greasy-animalic at first but dries down to a thunderous ambient powdery sandalwood oud. Spray it on fabric and you'll be smelling it for months. I have to disagree with anyone who says that this is a copy of M7--M7 is EDT strength compared to the Samsara bombast of Afgano. It has that "narcotic" effect that original Poison EDP had, along with Opium and Carnal Flower, where you feel like you're going to blissfully pass out from its intensity. Department store fragrances used to be like this but I guess it's only available to the extremely wealthy now.

Nasomatto seem to have taken people's asinine internet complaints about its strength to heart, as it's not quite as strong as it used to be. I'll never for the life of me understand why people publicly air their desire for perfumes to be diluted and then complain about reformulation when the company actually does it.

Great stuff, but I can't wear it because it belongs to her.


Rush by Gucci

Of course I love this. It's an 80s powerhouse throwback named after poppers that smells like poppers. Electric youth indeed!

Old man on bus, with tone that is not necessarily complimentary: "Excuse me. Whatever that is you have on..."

Me: "Oh, thank you! It's Gucci Rush."

Old man on bus, shaking head: "Whatever that is you have on..."


May it always be in production-- this is all Gucci still have going for them on the perfume end. Tom Ford's perfumes were so interesting before he started his pretentious eponymous line.

If you wear Rush, make sure to wear a lot. This is a statement scent that is meant to be big and opaque. Transmogrify into an electric red rectangle; the instructions are there in the bottle design. I am dismayed when I smell a stale little whisper of Rush, a stale little whisper of Alien, a stale little whisper of Angel, a stale little whisper of Coco Mlle, on women. Oh, what it will take to undo the damage that modern American beauty magazine editorials on the alleged proper way to wear fragrance have wrought--spray and walk through, one spray, others must only be able to smell you when they lean in close, all that prim 50s etiquette guide bullshit. Above all, don't listen to Goody Onespritz when she admonishes you that it is better to risk underapplying than to be "perfume lady" or "cologne guy."

"A woman who wears too little fragrance instead of too much has no future" -me

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