Spell 125 by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

A wonderful cool forest incense: natural, astringent, mulchy, and finally airy and calming. There's a strong sour/bitter layer in the opening that smells vaguely poisonous, very dark, and a lot like decomposing when you lift up a big old pine log in a damp forest and there's bunch of damp forest matter and bugs and stuff underneath. This is alongside the ambient smell of living forest. In the opening, the darkness is dominant, and smelled up close, it can be a little offputting. But smelled as sillage, it works like the scent equivalent of a peaceful, cool, shadowy nook in the accord. It really reminds me of a realistic damp cool living forest.

Heading through the heart and base, Spell evolves into a natural, weightless incense that seems grounded in earthy forest tones, or perhaps burning in a cool forest. I'm no expert in incense, but this take seems uncommonly free of sharp edges or anything chemical. It warms up a bit, but always remains a little aloof and cool. The weight and airy/meditative feel is something like what Douchafour did with scents like Timbuktu or Dzongkha, but basically just superior in every way I can think of. Excellent, and easy to wear.
Sep 10, 2021

Vetiver by Hiram Green

No doubt about it, this a A Big Vetiver. Vetiver in all its green, woody, rooty, smoky, inky glory (this vetiver is all of those things at once). Ginger is an extra, just adding a little zing to the green, and there's not much else. Parts of the opening remind me of the style of vetiver in MPG Route du Vetiver, but with the inky, pitch black element toned down, and the woody-warm side bumped up. The cassis in the opening of the MPG is replaced with a raw, spicy ginger note. This is a great improvement, as cassis does not agree with me (smells wet, heavy and can be suffocating for me), and ginger very much does agree with me. I think ginger is a much better match for this sort of green-sharp-rooty vetiver accord, giving it a bright, spiced effervescence, a counterpoint to the inherent darkness of a full vetiver note.

As it dries, it goes in a more woody-earthy-dry direction and starts to remind me of Bruno Fazzolari's Vetiverissimo, which starts more in that direction and stays there. This one evolves from a sharp rooty green into that warmer base zone.

High quality and resolution throughout, as with all Hiram Greens I've smelled. This is vetiver in 3D, 4K, high fidelity, pick your A/V metaphor.

A superb quality vetiver that really showcases the full range of the note. A must sample for hardcore vetiver fans. Compares well against the elites of the genre.
Sep 10, 2021

Fjerne by Slumberhouse

Notes, as provided by the perfumer:
milk, honey, hazelnut, cedar, musk, wheat, amber, sandalwood, patchouli, feuilletine, tonka, carob, vanilla, cistus, styrax

Fjerne is clearly based on a boatload of good tonka, but it isn't nearly as heavy as that implies. It's thick and rich, but also an elephant floating in orbit. I don't know exactly how this is achieved, but it's very cool.

Speaking of which, it literally does smell cool...a very light, bright evergreen along the lines of the effect in Grev. A reference I get for the effect is Fazzolari's Feu Secret (but add a ton of tonka). The icy-rich feel is, woody, mineralic, green, sweet.

As to the much discussed "grain" notes. Yes...they read to me as "malted" in this context. The very top end is straight up malted milk balls, and then it goes more toward cold Ovaltine, followed by malted milk ice cream (Tilamook makes a good one, try it...or if you've been to Milk Bar in NYC, it's like that cereal-milk soft serve they make)...all against that cool/outdoorsy/mineral green backdrop. That cold malted-milk tonka effect really defines the scent to me. It's just so pleasing and inviting in a pure, innocent, childlike way. I see why this feels nostalgic to many reviewers, and if that was the intended artistic effect...bravo.
Oct 8, 2020

Tai Winds by Avon

Let's call Tai Winds a green powdery soapy oriental. I will say upfront that for me, this one hasn't aged particularly well. It reminds me of opening a drawer full of stale masculine grooming products. Some of the Brut has leaked and the smell is competing with a spicy deodorant and maybe the Skin Bracer and the toothpaste. At points during the opening evolution, it actually turned my stomach a little bit: there's a strong mentholated/spiky note that I think is supposed to have a similar effect as the sharp green lavender of Caron Pour un Homme. In the Caron (and other top classical powdery fougeres), this aspect is blended with a precise, light hand, and lends excitement to the tonka/vanilla backbone. In Tai Winds, the soapy/green, spicy, and oriental elements are waging violent battle, and all sides are sustaining heavy losses. The extended base is a lot more enjoyable - really more of a classic powdery-barbershop profile, and the cooling element has settled in a much nicer groove. I can get along with just fine with the base, but sorry, I just can't handle the chaotic and extended opening phases.
Sep 4, 2020

Insensé by Givenchy

Givenchy Insense is a strange one, and always reminds me of the kind of risks designer houses used to take with their releases. I admire Insense, but I have to admit it isn't something I reach for often.

Basically, it is an extremely dry, waxy, green floral woody fougere, significant creatively in that it overdoses the aldehydes and uses sharp astringent notes to make the green floral accord so scorchingly radiant and soapy that they become unrecognizable as flowers, and turn into something else, something men at the time of its release would feel comfortable wearing. A brutalist floral.

Sometimes I find this jarring personality totally intriguing and satisfying, calling to mind an image of a crystal clear swimming pool, immaculately maintained, sitting deserted in the middle of the Sahara with the sun beating down on it. Sometimes, it reminds me of a harsh soap, and bubbles (i.e., the bubble juice you use to blow bubbles).

The blinding spotlight calms down a little heading through the base, and it's more of a moody woody fougere. It is in the arena of YSL Jazz or Platinum Egoiste, both of which are also very "bright" but also bone dry, dead serious fougeres. Guerlain Coriolan and Rochas Globe also echo this style with some additional flourishes.

Insense is the most uncompromising and challenging expression of this early 90s mini trend of dry, serious masculine florals, and as interesting as it is, it can be a demanding and difficult wear. Still, I give it a thumbs up for art.
Jul 13, 2020

Le Miracle by Lenthéric

Miracle starts quite lemony citric, rich and full, and this burst fades very quickly. A Guerlainade-like powder + herbal + floral (carnation and iris, I think I smell) accord is immediately evident, plus lavender. There is a dash of civet there. I'm reminded rather strongly of Habit Rouge, and maybe a little of Jicky, like a 3:1 ratio of the two. Less "dusty" than HR. The base is a smooth leathery-vanilla affair, plus something earthy in the background (patchouli?)...really close to a dead ringer for Habit Rouge to my nose, though I'm not sniffing them side by side.

Since it smells like Habit Rouge and generally "like a Guerlain" almost from top to bottom, of course I like it. Interesting that this predated Habit Rouge by so much. I'd be very surprised if Jean Paul didn't have this in mind at least as a reference when developing Habit Rouge. This is seriously impressive stuff.
Jul 13, 2020

Écusson by Long Lost Perfume

I like this one once it has time to settle in a little bit. It's a bit hard-edged starting out, particularly the EDC. A ton of very dry, tart, almost metallic aldehydes start things off, and I get virtually none of the listed topnotes. I wonder if perhaps they are degraded with age. I get a lot of brightness and bitterness.

The parfum is softer and feels more filled in, with a nice floral accord, but both shared this basic character. Agree with Bavard that it's soapy at this stage. There are small glimmers of what's to come trying to peek through, providing ghostly hints at warmth.

Seemingly out of the blue, the evolution (particularly in the case of the Parfum) finds its footing. The opening soap and aldehydes hit the deck, and what remains is a beautiful, soft, warm, woody, tobacco-laced vanilla civet musk accord, familiar to others from the era, polished and well executed. Enormous evolution. Compared the EDC, the parfum is far muskier, thicker, fluffier. I think it would have fit into the animalic discussion with the smooth, sweet musk on display. It smells Guerlain-ish. Loving the rich, golden base of the parfum.

The EDC retains more of the soapy, dry character of the top, and generally feels austere compared to the parfum. It's far mossier and woodier, and echoes some of the masculines of the era. It smells more like a typical soapy cyphre, perhaps in line with something like Monsieur Givenchy. In fact, I'm not sure these two iterations have much in common after the initial phases.
Jul 13, 2020

L'Interdit (original) by Givenchy

L'Interdit's opening gives a short blast of fresh light-greenish floral aldehydes, and then moves quickly into fruitier territory. I wouldn't peg the notes as peach and strawberry, but sure, why not. This melds with a soft, diffuse kind of floral accord with a semi-makeupish orris powdery feel. Here, it briefly reminds me of the doughy/rooty/bready/confectiony floral accord that runs through L'Heure Bleue, but brighter. It stays in this zone to fade out, gradually focusing more on the vanilla/musk/benzoin side of things. Quiet overall, mostly a skin scent. Pleasant, but to me, not very interesting or satisfying.
Jul 13, 2020

Robert Graham Courage by Robert Graham

A reasonably pleasant but very familiar citrus/minty/alcohol opening, and from there it's a stock standard masculine woody acquatic fougere in the vein of Cool Water. Not awful, just completely forgettable.
Dec 23, 2019

Squid by Zoologist Perfumes

An aquatic for folks who don't typically like aquatics (that would be me).

It does a fantastic job of channeling the feel of "clean seawater". Like spray from a boat misting your has a slight smell, and I think Squid captures that. It's not coastal briney, barnacled, seaweedy or fishy, as some hardcore aquatics try to be. It's not a grungy pier, and doesn't smell much like a seashore. The mental imagery for me is clean, bright, seawater: open ocean. There's an "ink" note, but not sure I'd call it squid ink, which smells pretty fishy in cuisine. Just ink, and it combines well with the mineralism of the seawater note, and highlights the imagery of bottomless, clear seawater on a sunny say...that hypnotic deep blue color.

The structural backdrop is basically bright spices (apparently pink pepper and opoponax, though I wouldn't be able to peg them without referencing the pyramid), and a clean, dry sort of sweetish mineral/ambergris, the sweetness from a light dusting of benzoin. The base sillage has a surprisingly smooth warmth to it, and up close you still get some inky hints.

A really impressive composition...unique yet very wearable, particularly with that inviting sillage. Some might find it a little boring, but I think it's good to see Zoologist exploring more approachable territory while staying true to itself. Could easily be a summer staple.
Oct 29, 2019

Baikal Gris by Areej le Doré

Wonderful. I was expecting an overall green scent...nope, only around edges. It's dominated through the top and middle by a big hay-like tonka with a personality of pipe tobacco and almond, distinctly boozy at first. I was a bit worried for a few minutes; it's sweet. This sweetness against a wet, vegetal violet is a little jarring, but it calms down, and the violet in particular dries out and melds with the increasingly agricultural tonka (the hay aspect takes over) to give an almost leathery feel.

This is where the saltiness of the ambergris and a subtle smoked fir comes into play, clearly present, contributing personality but not dominating, acting like a strident but appropriate seasoning. There's a black licorice-y overtone here, oddly industrial or oily (as in motor oil), probably a ghost created from this set of notes - most likely a product of the smoked fir. It's just beautiful. A wonderful accord, like nothing I've smelled before, complex, deep and undeniably attractive. Bravo!
May 6, 2019

Fontevraud by Bruno Fazzolari

Maybe I'm not as familiar with the smell of guava as I thought, but I swear the very opening this smells more like a very tart and unripe passionfruit to me. I do not enjoy the early opening (first 10-15 min) at all. The tart tropical fruit note, whatever it may be, is important later on - but out of the bottle, it's shouty and shrill.

Thankfully, that note smooths out over the first hour or so, and I start to enjoy it quite a bit. The tart-tropical note still dominates in a more restrained way, and is joined by a demure rose note that I have to concentrate on to pick up.

What I did not expect and am pleasantly surprised by is the big whallop of bitter, dry moss that enters the scene. It has some serious bite, and is backed by a bone dry, spiced resinous ambery accord. The effect is almost incensey to me - very dry - an unexpected and welcome quality in a "tropical" composition. This basic accord comes to dominate for me, and a couple of hours in, the tropical opening is just present enough to lend an laid-back exotic flair where this might otherwise feel a little austere. I find the rose and patchouli notes be very light, and serve more to lend kind of chewy/earthy feel to the base.
Mar 29, 2019

Monsieur Carven by Carven

Monsieur Carven is a delight. Compared to what I was expecting, the opening does not feature a classic sharp citric-type "gentleman's" opening, but is immediately spicy. I particularly detect a strong cinnamon/clove/carnation accord (somewhat like Equipage, but less green, or perhaps closer to the original Opium) that carries through most of the scent's evolution. It's buttressed by aldehydes and light/smooth citrus and undefined floral accents.

The evolution from there is exquisite, with dusty/dry vetiver and smooth woods mingling with a friendly light leather/powder/musk base, typical of many semi-powdery barbershop fougeres, but done with absolute grace.

Easy to come by vintage bottles at reasonable prices. If you have any interest in spicy scents or smooth barbershop fougeres, this should be near the top of your list to try out.
Mar 13, 2019

Cyber Garden by Costume National

I was expecting to be underwhelmed with Cyber Garden (and the name...welcome to 1994). But, surprise, it's an interesting little zingy synthetic green concoction with a few tricks up its sleeve.

The opening is minty-fresh and green, with a certain gassiness to it. Friendly and diffuse, but with a certain no-nonsense angular layer; I can see where this conjures technological imagery for some. To me, it just smells like a nice intentional use of synthetics.

The heart is where it takes off in my opinion: I just love the violet/saffron combination, which I don't think I've smelled before. The violet is of the powdery-green variety as opposed to vegetal, and the saffron adds a kind of soapy-spicy warmth. It's not the most literal saffron note out there...more of a warming fixative that adds a bit of fizziness, along with (I guess) the listed opoponax. It's a great accord for me, and reminds me just slightly of the "warm violet" proceedings of Bond's Bleecker Street. This is underpinned by a pretty standard but competent soft cedarwood/vetiver base; I'm not getting any patchouli.

Thumbs up; really nice spring/summer scent.
Mar 5, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Loc Dong by IFF

Right out of the gate, a blast furnace of Yankee Candle Factory butterscotch aroma, right in my nose like a candied ice pick. Immediate take: Lord help me. The color here is a radioactive yellow. This waxy-candy-overload impression is so strong I can't pick up much else for at least 15-20 minutes. I'm just about ready to scrub and pray for relief when a faint light starts emerging at the end of the tunnel, so I stick it out:

Something oddly clean, medicinal, and mineralic is growing, and I think there's something sweetly floral going on here, like Immortelle. This is one hell of an odd scent when these two personalities are at war in the heart.

After another 30 minutes or so, the clean personality has won out, and there's a faintly antiseptic vibe, but also sweet and bubblegummy. The color is now purple-ish green, and there's an icy-cool metallic streak running through it. There's a trace of modern designer familiarity in there, but this still mostly a surreal experience. If you've ever swished that harsh-sweet-antiseptic fluoride stuff at the dentist, it's like they somehow carved out the unpleasant parts of that and made the rest into a palatable smell. I should hate this, but instead, I'm oddly drawn to it. Not that I'd wear it - hell no - but I can't look away.

This is *by far* the most "postmodern" scent of the 2017 Mostmodern Speed Smelling Collection for me, contorting itself into some strange shapes and pulling the nose in wildly different, somewhat disorienting directions during its evolution.

I love this fact that this is supposed absurdly "bad" in a winky way, perhaps with a tacit middle finger at IFF and other companies behind increasing ridiculous aromachemical abominations: "this is what you've allowed me to create, enjoy!" I get no tobacco and I don't specifically pick up tuberose, but I guess that combined with the dihydromyrcenol is responsible for that purple-green mineral/metal fluoride thing.

Fascinating, but totally unwearable. I think that was the point, though.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Jean-Christophe Herault by IFF

Fruit brandy, yum! This one opens feeling almost carbonated, reminding me of the fizzy-fruit opening of the Ropion scent from this collection. The fruit simultaneously subsides and becomes more tart to my nose, though I can't identify the specific fruit(s) are involved. Grape passed my mind for a short time, but then it became something more like pomegranate, but I wouldn't bet on either. According to the card, cherry is the fruit. I can see a tart cherry.

The fruity opening started out a little high pitched, but the accord has smoothed out and deepened into a very nice heady, rich, and lifelike booze accord; I like this a lot. It isn't too sweet, and maintains a certain fruity-alcoholic purity for a long time, with a very slight dry ambery accord gradually joining the party later. Obvious references include Idole EDT and Ambre Russe, two excellent booze scents. This is like they extracted the most boozy aspects of both and laser focused on them. So mostly this feels like a great booze accord exploration, with not much evolution, but still perfectly wearable as-is.

Big thumbs up!

Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Juliette Karagueuzoglou by IFF

A dry cocoa and vanilla-amber-incense, dusty and quite faint after a short amount of time. It feels kind like a lazy Jo Malone attempt at something like Borneo 1834 or maybe Ummagumma. The opening is pleasant but uninspiring.

After some more time on skin, the base is a bit harsh and thin on me.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Caroline Dumur by IFF

A fresh spicy floral, maybe genarium? Synthetic, but recognizable as a floral for sure. It smells simple, brisk and soapy. I'm reminded of the tone of Diptyque's Geranium Odorata, but a more spicy and clovey/peppery. So maybe carnation instead of geranium, or a mix of the two. (According to the card, it is indeed intended to be carnation).

There's a clean woody/musky/incensey backbone. The floral feeling fades and spicy-incense aspect comes to the fore. It feels very composed and market-ready, and could totally see this coming from a house that specializes in simple, honest Diptyque. I like this one and could wear it easily in a variety of venues.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Alexis Dadier by IFF

I found this one immediately repulsive, but also familiar. I think there's an unpleasant scent memory at play here, or maybe a combination of memories. The vision I get is the swampy, steamy scent of crowded Disney World after a rain storm. There's the smell of moist, dirty concrete and moist, dirty people mixed with the odor of a trash can full of soggy, greasy amusement park food, particularly doughy funnel cakes. Steaming, greasy, abandoned funnel cakes, yum. And that's about as far as I got before scrubbing.

The included card mentions a few really odd savory/foody notes (almond milk, rice, matcha) that maybe shouldn't be combined with whatever other aromachemicals are at play. I applaud the effort but simply dislike smelling this.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Anne Flipo by IFF

My first thought out of the gate was "spicy woody floral". But it's also a little gummy and sweet, with a bright synthetic tone. I had a brief vision of Azzaro Acteur (woody rose), and then it passed. With time, it moves more toward spice and something soapy and cool. There's a neat hot/cold dichotomy going on here.

The soapy/cool side reminds me of the seldom-discussed Ulrich Lang Nightscape, which is a cool, sharp, woody patchouli. This is like a spiced, intense version of that, to my nose. It's an interesting one, and hard to pin down!
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Epicene Gamma / Nicolas Beaulieu by IFF

It starts with a blast of very dry, earthy, somewhat reedy/weedy green with a slightly sour undertone, like maybe lime rind. I'm guessing there's some kind of modified galbanum-like note here. I enjoy this opening very much. This is what reminds me of Corsica Furiosa, or perhaps a more barren, less damp-earthy-mossy take on Frapin Paradis Perdu's opening.

The greenery gradually smooths out, with the sour citric element fading first. Then it goes to spicy/dry green, then spicy/dry leather. I cannot identify the spice note, with there's a definite warmth coming from somewhere. Is it a bitter cinnamon? Maybe some white pepper? I don't know. The leather note reminds me quite a bit of the base of Cuiron: pure, spare, pointed, and somehow "crunchy" - best word I have for it. Green Cuiron with a mysterious spicy element.

Thumbs up. I like it a lot. Wish it projected a bit more.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Sophie Labbé by IFF

A bright green opening that reminds me of something like angelica: spiced, bright, zesty green. Very synthetic, but I enjoy the top.

After that, sadly, it goes downhill for me. I get a quickly progressing melting plastic note that I've come to associate with overdoses of ambrox. It gets sweeter with a soft laundry-type musk going in the background, but that plastic ambrox accord just ruins things for me.

Oddly, this note is more evident in my sillage than sniffing up close. Every once in awhile I just get this sharp plastic waft. Putting that aside, this scent feels polished and streamlined, and those interested in such a take on a zesty green-fresh cologne maybe interested.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Fanny Bal by IFF

Immediately upon application, it reminds me of Slumberhouse Pear + Olive, with that oily-sweet "nosefeel". It reminds me somewhat of salted/buttered popcorn (kettlecorn, perhaps), with a coconut flair.

The popcorn-butter element fades and it starts reminding me more of a spiced-coconut pastry, with a dark-syrupy undertone I can't quite place. It fades in this general zone, staying gourmand/amber, pleasant and easygoing.

An entertaining and creative scent! The base is fairly typical, but I like the salty-sweet top.
Jan 7, 2019

Speed Smelling 2017 Postmodern Collection : Julien Rasquinet by IFF

Incense. Frankincense? Warmer than that. Myrrh. I have trouble pegging incense varieties.

Plummy and/or boozy and a little spicy with a hit of saffron. This is a bit sweet on top but still mostly dry and resinous, reminding me somewhat of the opening night of Amouage Jubilation XXV.

This is a simple creation; it follows this spiced incense trajectory to the end, becoming more of a pure incense. Extremely dry; it conjures desert imagery.
Jan 7, 2019

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