Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estée Lauder

This EDP is beautiful, much to my surprise - I expected it to be a chemical-smelling, uninteresting mess like Lauder's current reformulations of house classics.

Tuberose Gardenia is delicate, graceful and lovely in an almost soliflore way; it is straightforward and doesn't have the complex development one often finds in tuberose perfumes, but it stays beautiful right through to its disappearance. On me, it is a skin scent with modest longevity (3-4 hours).

I give Tuberose Gardenia a positive rating because it is a really well made, beautifully balanced, realistic bouquet. I'm not sorry I bought it, and have no wish to damn it with faint praise - but honestly, I don't think it has anything to recommend it over Carnal Flower or the redoubtable Fracas, and I can't imagine choosing it over either of those two.

Tuberose Gardenia's aura lies midway between Carnal Flower's fresh-cut floral refrigerator and Fracas' nearly-decaying fullness. It is sophisticated, quiet and elegant, and a good place to begin for those who wish to venture into tuberose territory, but are wary of the powerhouses; or, for more experienced noses, as a break from them.

Bengale Rouge by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

This EDP is extraordinary, ranking right up there with original Opium and fine vintage oriental extraits. I find it simply gorgeous, lush and rich yet playful, redolent of the easy confidence and maturity that come from living gracefully within one's own skin. It teases with a honeyed vanillic sweetness that never becomes cloying, thanks to a generous cloud of spice that settles on it like a sable wrap. Everything is blended in such a way that no single note overtakes the composition.

I completely understand Liz Moores' stated evocation of the Bengal cat in this fragrance; the pleasure of burying one's face in that well-groomed fur, of reveling in the unplanned, relaxed elegance of each movement. It actually feels crude to mention such things as longevity and sillage, but they're there in spades. Development is langorous and straightforward: Bengale Rouge is what it is from the outset, a stunning beauty.

Je Reviens by Worth

Je Reviens was one of the first fragrances I ever tried, and it remains one of my favorites. There have been many versions over the years, and I thought it might be worthwhile to say a few words about the ones I'm familiar with.

I have several vintage minis and a Lalique skyscraper bottle of the parfum. Aldehydes and delicate florals sit on a vetiver and coumarin base that almost smells camphorous. The parfum is somewhat sharper and greener than the vintage cologne or Parfum de Toilette. (There is no current version of the parfum.) In terms of strength, longevity and sillage, it is the faintest of all the versions reviewed here.

Vintage EDC is wonderful. I have two bottles, and heaven knows how, but they've managed to hold onto their most delicate notes - highly recommended.

There was a Parfum de Toilette in the 70s that is good - not as full-bodied as vintage ECD, but respectable and instantly recognizable as Je Reviens.

The current EDT is dreadful - thin, sharp, chemical, unworthy.

In 2004, Je Reviens Couture EDP was introduced in an effort to restore Je Reviens to its original glory; it might have been reformulated in 2010 to coincide with the House of Worth's short-lived return to the haute couture world, but documentation is scarce. I have two bottles, and determining their production years is impossible because Worth (to the best of my knowledge) is not included in batch code websites. One bottle has a strong chemical opening, but it soon dries down to the lovely scent that I first smelled in the late 1960s; the other bottle smells good right out of the atomizer.

If you're trying to decide which version of Je Reviens to purchase, my recommendation would be to find a bottle of Je Reviens Couture (still available online, though in diminishing numbers); or look for a boxed vintage bottle of parfum or EDC. The PDT from the 70s is widely available on eBay at reasonable prices, but is not as good as vintage EDC. Don't bother with the current EDT.

Je Reviens wears close to the skin; it whispers. Longevity is fleeting in all versions except Couture. Sillage and projection are minimal.

Tubéreuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens

As others have said, Tubereuse Criminelle opens with a surprising mentholated accord - but I find it hypnotic instead of off-putting, which is surprising because I don't generally like minty scents. I feel pulled by the opening, wanting to see where it leads.

As TR develops, the lovely tuberose and jasmine make their appearance (though the menthol or wintergreen undertone persists, in a muted but steady way). The floral notes are neither sweet nor overwhelming, surprisingly gentle for a fragrance with such a formidable reputation.

Alas, TR has minimal longevity and sillage for me - it's pretty much gone in four hours. But I love it while it lasts, and this has become one of my favorite tuberose fragrances.

Carnal Flower by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Much has been said about the realism and freshness of this fragrance, and I don't have much to add on that score - except to say that Carnal Flower's freshness is not about soap or naivete, but rather the just-cut essence of stalk and bloom. It really is like walking into a florist's refrigerated room, or strolling through a garden alive with white flowers.
There is a lovely green note that prevents Carnal Flower from sliding into sweet sentimentality - it retains its character right through the drydown. Along with Fracas (Piguet) and Tubereuse Criminelle (Lutens), Carnal Flower is among my top three current favorite tuberose perfumes (for vintage, nothing comes close to L'Heure Bleue).

White Shoulders by Elizabeth Arden

White Shoulders doesn't seem to age well. I have two EDCs and one parfum from the Evyan years, each of them boxed and well stored, but all of them have faded - the parfum is just basenotes now, the EDCs mere shadows of their former selves.

So...even though the current version is, yes, watered-down and reformulated, it is a reasonably good buy if you want to revisit the memory of this once-glorious, robust fragrance. The current versions still have that special heady white floral accord we remember at the opening, though it is fleeting.

I agree with other reviewers who prefer the EDP, mainly for its longer lifespan - the EDC has scant longevity, and is comparatively thin. This was one of my favorites, growing up, and I still love having it around.

Baghari by Robert Piguet

This review is for the current EDP. Piguet is one of my favorite houses, and none of its fragrances thus far have actually disappointed me; Baghari, though, while it is a pleasant and perfectly respectable floral, does not single itself out as a fragrance I'd want to wear often. It is almost a generic concoction, albeit well done.

Vintage Baghari had an interesting edge to it that the current formula lacks, which of course should come as no surprise in this highly regulated era; I don't expect miracles. Still, this EDP leaves me flat.

Dryad by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Dryad is gorgeous. It's as green as the forest floor, sharp with moss and vetiver, softened by resins and subtle florals; there's even the hint of a stream burbling in the background. It is a symphony of natural smells and associations. I suppose it could be called a chypre, but that term restricts it.

Dryad maintains its structure throughout its development, drying down seamlessly and lasting all day on my skin (I could even detect a whisper of it the next morning). After several hours, it reminds me of Bandit - but it never loses its own sparkle and mystery.

Boy Chanel by Chanel

This is a lovely fougere with a beautifully balanced floral bouquet. It's subtle, refined, delicate but not dainty - as integrated, elegant and well-mannered as any creation we've come to expect from Chanel. I think it would be perfect for almost all situations and occasions, as it easily becomes one with the wearer and never screams or calls undue attention to itself. This is one of Chanel's best recent releases, in my view.

Mitsouko Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

This review is for the 2014 EDT, which is reputed to be among Guerlain's better reformulations. I also have a 2015 EDP, and can't recommend that one - it has a sour note, and might have been among the batch issued prior to Guerlain's 2015 Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue production halt due to a problem with one of their shared ingredients (that issue was resolved, and production resumed in 2016). The 2015 suspension involved only the EDP and parfum extrait concentrations of those fragrances - not the EDT.

Mitsouko EDT, while of course lighter and thinner than the parfum, is true to its heritage and actually smells more like my vintage juice than the 2015 EDP (referenced above). The EDT is fresh, crisp and well delineated, and it even has a little of the bite we associate with oakmoss (though modern Mitsouko contains only a fractionated version of that restricted ingredient). So I agree with those who say that 2014 was a very good year for Mitsouko EDT.

Cabochard by Grès

This review is for the current EDP, which is widely available at an unbelievably low price for a classic - albeit heavily redacted - fragrance. Cabochard is often compared to Bandit and Azuree, and indeed they are very similar (especially in the drydown); but to my nose it smells more like the current excellent reformulation of Magie Noire, which is more floral than Bandit and Azuree. Cabochard still has its leathery and smoky edge, though. It opens very sharp and green, and mellows into a satisfying modern chypre (i.e. no oakmoss, what an oxymoron!). It retains its structure throughout many hours on my skin, with a healthy sillage. Of course, like most current reformulations, Cabochard EDP isn't as robust as its vintage predecessor - but it's still quite good.

Samsara Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

This is a review of the current EDP, which I quite like. I am nearing the bottom of my 1991 EDT bottle (so sad!), and decided to order a new version for comparison purposes - today's EDP is very reasonably priced, so it wasn't a huge risk. And it was a good decision, because it's lovely.

It isn't fair to essay a direct comparison between vintage EDT and current EDP (not exactly apples and oranges, maybe Winesap vs. Red Delicious?), but I can at least report that Samsara's DNA is intact. The EDP is still sandalwood and spice, sensuous and enveloping. Longevity is a few hours less than the vintage EDT, but still respectable - and the drydown is lovely.

Edited to add: Minis (2ml) of 1990s extrait are readily available online, as of this writing. The extrait is marvelous, and the minis are great if you want to experience the original fragrance without breaking the bank.

Muscs Koublaï Khän by Serge Lutens

This is devilishly divine! :) I ordered a sample and knew I'd want to buy a full bottle at some point. True to its reputation, Muscs Koublai Khan is animalic as all get-out - but in a knowing, sophisticated way, neither crude nor overweaning. It's not even edgy: it's elegant, but just barely. This masterfully blended symphony of musk, civet and floral notes is just lovely.

17/17 Irisss by Xerjoff

This is one of the best iris fragrances I've ever smelled - it's rich, buttery, exquisitely balanced. But on my skin, it's as delicate as the flower, with scant sillage and projection, and it fades away completely within 3 hours. At over $700 a bottle, that's unacceptable - fortunately, I didn't have to pay that much because I split a bottle with three other people.

I give Irisss a thumbs-up for sheer beauty, and it might perform better on someone else; it wouldn't seem fair to give this lovely scent a neutral rating. But I must say, I like Cuir de Lancome almost as much.

V / Visa by Robert Piguet

This is a beautiful floral oriental with an abundance of wonderful fruit notes. I love opulent perfumes that carry me back in memory to the pre-IFRA days, and Visa - while it has been reformulated, like every other fragrance - fills that bill. It's warm, gracious, enveloping and inviting, sweet but not smarmy. I think it's lovely.

Sahara Noir by Tom Ford

I am a huge fan of incense notes, and Sahara Noir is among the best I've smelled. It is simultaneously sweeter and more tarry than another of my favorites, Comme des Garcons' Avignon (with which it is often compared); I find it less dry than Avignon, too. I seem to detect vanilla behind Sahara Noir's prominent resins, though it is not listed among the notes - this has the effect of wrapping one up in a blanket of heavenly smoke. Or maybe it is the prominent amber that draws me in. Sahara Noir is well balanced, intriguing, hypnotic - a splendid incense fragrance.

Tilleul / Linden by Provence Santé

If you have ever stood downwind of a linden tree in full bloom, you'll know exactly what this wonderful soliflore smells like. I'm transported. On any day of the year, I can revisit July through Tilleul. Longevity is surprisingly good for an EDT (I can still catch wafts of it after 10 hours). It wears close to the skin, with sillage like a soft breeze playing among blossoms. Tilleul is simply heavenly.

Misia Eau de Toilette by Chanel

Misia is a very, very pretty fragrance, a soft and retro spicy rose that is smooth, sweet and captivating. It is an intimate and inviting scent that never overwhelms. Like most of Les Exclusifs, Misia has a short lifespan on my skin - it is a whisper, almost an afterthought, after two hours. I know that it performs much better for other reviewers, and I'm used to the fact (sad as it makes me) that this line fades fast for me. Nevertheless, Misia is beautiful, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves gentle, nostalgic, almost melancholy, rose and iris fragrances.

Coco by Chanel

What an interesting scent! It's as sophisticated and elegant as one would expect from Chanel, sparkling with aldehydes and with enough self-assurance to support its eccentricity. It lingers in the mind and reminds me of...something, I don't know what: an evening long ago, a garden breeze at night with crystalware tinkling in the distance, a torchlit veranda...something. It's edgy and romantic at the same time.

Coco is available in EDP, EDT and parfum concentrations. The EDP lasts for 24 hours on my skin, without losing any of its structural integrity throughout its development and drydown. When Coco finally fades away, it does so without reverting to the rubbery synthetic smell that I've noticed in the last stages of most reformulations: it is very much like a fine vintage fragrance, rich from beginning to end, with perfectly blended floral, fruit and spicy notes (similar to Opium, but more stately).

One reviewer said that Coco smells like old-fashioned cough syrup, and I understand that perception; for me, though, there's enough going on here to lift it out of the medicinal family of notes, and set it apart. Coco is an unusual beauty which needs to be appreciated with an open mind, on its own terms. I find it simply stunning.

La Pausa / 28 La Pausa Eau de Toilette by Chanel

This is an elegant but approachable iris, simultaneously cool and welcoming in its self-assurance. It's almost a soliflore, but I pick up other garden scents carried in its sillage. 28 La Pausa is one of the most natural and open-hearted irises I've smelled. I don't detect any undesirable, inauthentic or misplaced notes here. It's delicate, and its brief longevity is somewhat disappointing - but oh, what a beauty while it lasts (3-4 hours on my skin).

31 rue Cambon Eau de Toilette by Chanel

31 rue Cambon is one of my favorites among the Exclusifs line. I love its spicy warmth and gracious elegance. Longevity for me is good by Les Exclusif standards (about 6 hours), during which time it never loses its character or backbone; even when it becomes a skin scent, 31 rue Cambon's character remains intact. If it came in extrait concentration, I'd swoon.

Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

This is a beautifully balanced fragrance, with one of the best sandalwood drydowns I've ever smelled. Egoiste is elegant and well-mannered, but not stuffy - it is warm, intriguing, inviting and self-assured: it knows who it is, and is effortlessly itself.

Egoiste is frequently compared to another Chanel masterpiece, Bois des Iles. I recognize the family resemblance, but they are not replicants. Each is gorgeous in its own way, with Bois des Iles being the more floral of the two. On my skin, Egoiste has greater longevity and sillage than Bois des Iles.

Tobacco Rose by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

At first, I thought this smelled exactly like Chamade (Guerlain), but it quickly developed into its own Rose. I did pick up the initial aromachemical note that others have referred to; however, this vanished after a few moments and Tobacco Rose unfurled a very green, earth-and-garden accord supporting a lush bouquet of roses.

I believe it is the hay note which lends a compelling allure and strangeness to this fragrance; and there is real oakmoss here, too. Tobacco Rose is technically a soliflore, but its rose is joined by several well orchestrated notes that give it an intriguing character and presence. I find that it has excellent longevity, as well (8-plus hours on my skin).

Black No. 1 / Blackbird by House of Matriarch

This elegant, beautifully constructed fragrance is often compared to Anubis by Papillon (with Blackbird - now renamed Black No. 1 - coming out on top); I agree, they smell quite similar, especially in Anubis' dry-down. Black No. 1 also resembles Avignon (by Comme des Garcons), with its wonderful cedar smokiness.

Black No. 1 was created to celebrate the pine forests of the northwest coast of the US, and to that end it is a masterfully blended symphony of notes including conifer, seaweed, cannabis resin and many others. Its smoke wafts a glorious seaside accord, simultaneously unfurling a sweetness that is neither honeyed nor gourmand. Black No. 1 is simply stunning, and it has enormous longevity and depth.

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