Brooks Otterlake

Unda Maris 8 by Sauf

Unda Maris is an oddball aquatic, built around clean, watery tones with creamy lily and slightly liturgical incense. This blend of oceanic and incense elements might make this an avant-garde alternative to Acqua di Gio Profumo, but in character it is more akin to the likes of Aqua di Sale and Finisterre: mature and aromatic.

I don't know precisely how to feel about it. The aquatic elements feel a bit too exposed to me (as they do in Finisterre), and I find myself wishing for a bit more herbal sharpness to offset the floral-creamy tones. The incense is a nice touch, though.

I shall update this neutral review accordingly after spending more time with it in the warm weather months.

Blu Mediterraneo : Ginepro di Sardegna by Acqua di Parma

I'm giving this a neutral just because it isn't worth unicorn pricing, but it is pleasant. This is essentially Acqua di Parma's take on the "dad cologne" genre (a kind of Mediterranean-flavored Varvatos Vintage, if you will).

Moustache Eau de Parfum by Rochas

To my nose, Moustache Eau de Parfum is a bland woodyamber stew. It's not repellent, exactly, but you can do much better, even given its discounted pricing.

Ambar del Sur by Carner Barcelona

A sunny, almost beachy interpretation of amber that emphasizes the vanilla/tonka without going into dessertville. Ambar del Sur deserves no awards for originality or acclaim for delicate nuance, so it's undeniably a bit of an also-ran.

Still, it's wearable and refreshing in a way that most ambers aren't (amber scents do skew pretty stodgy), and that's enough to give it a thumbs-up in my book. This will get more weartime from me than many of the usual suspects because of that more aromatic, Mediterranean tilt.

Essence No. 4 : Oud by Elie Saab

Credit where credit's due: it's hard to imagine a better "luxe-niche oud" soliflore. The aromachem-ness of it all threatens to get scratchy, but Kurkdjian really knows how to handle modern materials.

Ambre Loup by Rania J

I don't do well with syrupy, gourmandy, heavily vanillic ambers and Ambre Loup is a particularly gloopy, dense one, like an overly rich dessert where even just one bite is too much.

Gravitas pour Homme by Naughton & Wilson

Gravitas is a curiously over-the-top name for a fairly subtle, refined scent that hearkens back to the days of the fougére as a sophisticated grooming product, rather than a statement.

Regardless of what you think of the brand's origins, the scent of Gravitas is quite nice, adding a dark twist to the fougere by closely blending the lavender with a dank patchouli (which gives this slight echoes of Zino and its TF reworking, Beau de Jour, but Gravitas puts more focus on that as a core accord). This creates a deep, dark purple heart (as opposed to the drier, more "playdoh"-y lavender notes in many other fougeres).

In stance, Gravitas is situated halfway between the 2010 remake of Fougère Royale and Patrick by Fragrances of Ireland, a bit smoother and fresher and quieter than either. There is just enough moss to provide a touch of that ambient green fog that comes with moss without tilting Gravitas into full-on old school territory.

It's quite a nice blend, actually. Outside of the first hour, it wears mostly as a pleasant skinscent, so it will defy attempts to wear it as a loud signature.

Fougère Nobile by Nobile 1942

Sweet shaving cream; as noted below, it's a bit like a halfway point between Rive Gauche and 1725, though it's a bit simpler than either.

Fougère Nobile primarily consists of a familiar blend of lavender and doughy tonka. This is accented with a too-subdued hint of pepper in the opening and some patchouli and musk in the base.

If that sounds fairly basic, it is. Not at all unpleasant, but a bit unexceptional. The tobacco cited in the note listing is virtually absent.

Dirty Orange by Alexandria Fragrances

Virtually no detectable neroli, but plenty of grapefruit, lemon verbena, and faux-ambergris. Very simple and straightforward, a bit like an aggressively direct Green Irish Tweed variant.

Perfume Calligraphy Rose by Aramis

Richer but less versatile than its predecessor, the original Perfume Calligraphy, this is an opulent spiced vanillic Turkish rose scent that sits heavy on the skin (a very "you're wearing a perfume" type of perfume).

There are touches that elevate this beyond your typical vanilla rose, like the nicely articulated saffron and oregano, or the ambergris accord that adds a touch of depth to the base. It eventually dries down to a rich, rose-tinged custard that feels a bit gourmand.

I can't say I personally love it. It's a bit dense, almost stodgy, on my skin, and, accordingly, it feels like I'm wearing something meant for someone else. But it's nevertheless nicely done.

Oud de Carthage by Boucheron

A work of brazen self-plagiarism on Ropion's part, Oud de Carthage is just a slightly tweaked, leather-dominant Oud Malaki.

Compared to Oud Malaki, this has less smoky, dry spice and more floral tones, with the leather dominating the mid. The base skews more vanillic in Oud de Carthage. The oud in the name is most perceptible in the opening.

I like Oud Malaki, and I also like this. With the milder dose of spice, this might be the moderately more wearable option of the two, but it also misses a little bit of Oud Malaki's oompf.

Black Calamus by Carner Barcelona

A dark, cozy, alluring shadow of a scent, Black Calamus sits somewhere on the spectrum between Tom Ford Tobacco Oud and Serge Lutens La Couche du Diable.

If the singed labdanum of La Couche mingled with the what-remains-after-the-embers-have-burned-out effect of the dry cistus in Tobacco Oud, you'd be close to this.

Peppery spice adds bite while florals add a creamy undertone to its otherwise very dry aroma. Together, the cistus and papyrus together created a parched effect, like burnt wood left in the sun. The frankincense adds a mystical, alluring sparkle, while the labdanum and subtle vanilla hang loosely together like a deconstructed amber accord. The rounded, nutty oud in the base anchors it all in dark, dry woodiness.

All in all, one of the best from Carner Barcelona.

Tam Dao Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

Straightforward to a fault, Tam Dao is a linear, muted sandalwood. Not unpleasant, but not virtuosic, either.

Wendover by Clandestine Laboratories

The equivalent of a walk through the English countryside with warm, comforting wool attire, Wendover mingles cool herbal tones with smoky, peaty, leathery and warm, comforting spice.

It's a lovely jaunt in cool, damp hillsides, skewing more cozy than sharply green, but with some typically off-kilter, sharp facets in its aromatic structure that bring some authentically outdoorsy tones into the mix.

The gently sweet, smoky spice dominates its pleasant sillage, and despite its slightly musty-green nature, Wendover ends up being one of the crowdpleasers of the Clandestine Laboratories line.

Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens

This still deserves its position as a reference orange blossom perfume.

Fleurs d'Oranger is conceptually simple, but artfully balanced, with a unique hot/cold effect. The orange blossom shimmers like reflected sunlight, with the cumin lending a warm, slightly sweaty quality. The tuberose balances it out with some sunscreen coolness. The jasmine provides the backbone, bringing some indolic depth.

It's creamy, slightly rubbery, with just enough of a dirty edge to give it virility and vivaciousness. Fleurs d'Oranger wears subtly enough that it becomes a very attractive, fascinating, slightly abstract aura.

Platinum Collection : Leather by Commodity

Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a skilled hand with leather notes, and, here, he layers in a bit of his penchant for leather's funky side in with a clean, modern, supple leather ala the original Bottega Veneta masculine and feminine duo.

Pretty elegant and well-rounded.

George Parfum Extrait by Gentleman's Nod

This is an impression of an artisanal-style, resinous, smoky pipe tobacco (think along the lines of Slumberhouse) made with designer materials. The pricing is aligned with current designer retail, so there's no bait-and-switch here, and you're getting Parfum Extrait concentration.

The "wet shaver" community has been producing a high volume of fragrances that the perfume community is not paying attention to, some of which are a bit rough and some of which are very nice. What's notable is that it is an easy avenue for folks to stumble upon scent profiles outside the designer/masstiche boundaries.

I don't know that a seasoned perfume enthusiast will go ga-ga for this (it's not simplistic, but it is very straightforward), but they're also not the target audience. What it does offer is the kind of tobacco-forward experience you usually have to shell out big bucks to get, and that means this justifies its place in the market.

Bois d'Arménie by Guerlain

Bois d'Armenie embodies the aesthetic of Guerlain's luxury releases before it started exploring louder, more abrasive styles - which is to say it's luxe in a "mature" and acutely "French" way, skewing almost matronly and stuffy in its desire to exhibit good taste.

What elevates this over the likes of Cuir Beluga (which has some similar facets) is texture. Bois d'Armenie's blend of incense, iris, vanilla, and musk has a silky, liqueur-like sheen with a golden hue.

(A footnote: comparisons between Bois d'Armenie and Guerlain's later release, Lui, are profoundly overstated. They're not very similar.)

Oudh 36 by Al Haramain

A silky, smoky amber that skews smokier and woodier as it dries down (as opposed to sweeter and sweeter). It's straightforward and a touch shallower than some of the more acclaimed ambers, but the soft, fluid texture still gives it a luxurious and distinctive quality.

Given the price, it's hard to argue with the value proposition. Thumbs up.

Black Incense Malaki by Chopard

Black Incense Malaki is a superbly done oud-leather that outshines some notable entries in the category (including Guerlain's Bois Mysterieux).

Unlike many others in Chopard's "Malaki" line, Black Incense Malaki preserves the DNA of the refined original Oud Malaki, but amps up the oud accord in the base so that you get a fairly well constructed riff on Hindi oud, and then layers a smoky, raw leather on top of it (a leather that is very similar to that from Gucci Guilty Absolute).

Despite the name, there's no incense here. The prominent smoke comes from the leather, which dominates the opening until this settles into a sweet-spicy oud-dominant mid.

Bergamotto Marino by Gianfranco Ferré

A more refined, polished, and rich predecessor to Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura (which similarly blends EDC tropes into marine territory, albeit with a heavier hand with the aquatic aromachems), Bergamotto Marino is a lovely, simple blend that is distinguished through its very creamy, rich ambergris-musk base.

That base is lightly applied, but adds a warm, salty glow to this otherwise crisp, refreshing fragrance.

Falcon Leather by Matière Première

The closest thing to Falcon Leather is actually Carolina Herrera Mystery Tobacco, to the point where this could be its flanker (Mystery Leather). I like Mystery Tobacco and I like this, too, though this is a little more straightforward.

It's a dark, plummy, chocolate-y leather, not terribly unique, but nevertheless elegantly composed and devoid of harsh edges.

Nero Oudh by Tiziana Terenzi

Nero Oudh opens up animalic in a barnyardy, manure-and-earth sort of way, but that skank dissipates within minutes and is supplanted by burnt rubber tones.

Nero Oudh then settles into a pitch black, totally unsweetened, tarry-smoky-woody floral with a "petrol fumes" undercurrent. It's actually pleasant, in its own way, and not as challenging as that might all sound. In the air, it all blends together into something like a very dark, earthy leather accord.

In its commitment to unrelenting darkness, Oudh wears a bit like a base without a mid, but it is one of the darkest fragrances I've tried, so that is an accomplishment of sorts.

Blu Mediterraneo : Fico di Amalfi by Acqua di Parma

Purchased from discounters, Fico di Amalfi can be defended as a good bargain, but only up to a point. This creamy, clean, citrus-musk with a hint of lactonic fig isn't unpleasant, but there's not much to it.

The "fig fragrance" genre has been done with more creativity and depth in the designer realm (Salvatore Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs) and in the niche realm (L'Artisan, Diptyque).

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