Dolce Vita by Christian Dior

Fun! But way too much, and for way too long. Reminds me of an unhinged Rochas Femme. Maybe it's her wine aunt?

H24 by Hermès

I just find this unpleasant. God, that hot, steam, Trident cinnamon thing with robotic after-shave undertones. Hardly seems made with human beings in mind. When the robot revolution comes, the tin-man finance bros will be wearing this. Lord knows the flesh and bone ones already are.

No. 19 Poudré by Chanel

A competent floral-y dry green, this isn't without interest. Mostly, there's the sheer and awesome amount of powderiness to it, almost dense, and like something you can almost experience as a layer sitting on the skin, that keeps this scent from being merely another effectively pretty one at the mall. This slight (I almost wanna say subversive, but deep down know it's a stretch and some to call it that) streak speaks volumes in adding subtlety and dimension to the composition. Poudré is often compared to Infusion d'Iris by Prada, which makes a world of sense. The two are siblings, if not twins, but Poudré to me has more balls and more wit (though maybe not more brain) and seems to have learned how to let her brawny-er side loose while also getting it to fly under the radar of her ever watchful and proper mom. Poudré also performs better than Infusion: it projects quite a bit more (while still being civil) and lasts marginally longer. To my nose, it also smells higher quality. I'd rather shell out for this over that anytime, though I'm not sure it's fully my style.

Chance Eau Fraîche by Chanel

Probably the more interesting offering in the Chance range, it's not anything to write home about and it doesn't have anything new or of much interest going on, but you can almost detect a far-off hint of what might've been a better perfume. Just the slightest whiff of quirk. Other than that, it's inoffensive, which is a plus for a lot of people, and when it comes to the Chance family, a plus for me as well, it turns out.

Black by Bulgari

Generally I'm loath to read reviews bemoaning the fall from greatness of a certain scent or other. I'm all for Jeanne Moreau when she says the life you had is nothing, it's the life you have that matters. The life Bvlgari Black currently has is stripped of some interest. It retains a kind of weirdness, a daring and arresting originality of character. But it fades. Sooner and sooner it seems, to leave us with a fairly linear, sheer-y vanilla. It's not bad by any means, but it's hard to get into it in its current state, specially if you knew it before. Time rolls on, and there are better things out there. I still sniff it in department stores every now and then, and sometimes spray it on myself for that famous (and now fleeting) kick of burnt rubber.

Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum by Chanel

I'm hard pressed to find a fragrance so stridently synthetic that I enjoy so much. It's so blatantly fabricated, so brashly out-there, I have to believe it's the way it is by design and wit. I admire the balls it takes to produce something like this under Chanel and pass it off with a straight-face (specially at the time it was launched - less so nowadays). It's a joke. But what a good one. The Chanel with the most out of control joie de vivre, it also has nowadays the added bonus of being so ubiquitous you can be anything and anyone wearing this - because anyone and everyone who has been or done anything and everything has already worn it before you. It affords you an anonymity, a blending in, a not standing out for uniqueness. Who are you in a crowd when you're wearing this? Anyone and no one, which is a special kind of superpower - and a special kind of comfort. Like so many Chanels, it's also a no-brainer for those to whom it appeals: spray it on, walk out the door - what day it is matters not. Bravo.

Un Jardin sur le Nil by Hermès

I'm bored by this kind of faded, wilting, always-just-so type of "chic". It leaves me cold. When I can smell it. So weak, so faint! Obviously that's precisely the appeal for a lot of people. It's evocative enough, pretty enough, well-made enough. And still, I just can't bring myself to care. A perfectly groomed brunette wallflower dressed in expensive linen and barely-there make-up. Perched on a cream couch, she looks out in the distance, through the window. The maids are pleased she's so easy to work for, never a temper tantrum, never anything not scheduled in advance. Always there at the kids' parent-teacher conferences. Always a faint smile, just discernible enough.

Angel by Thierry Mugler

Bonkers! Good! Call me crazy, but in this day and age I think it leans masculine.

Calandre by Paco Rabanne

So, supposedly Lauren Bacall wore this, which makes sense to me. I remember the first the time I saw her ("The Big Sleep," which I hazard is how most people first saw her) I was so taken, she seemed something so new, so strong, so appealing. A kitten with a gangster lean. Now whenever I see her in a film, I think I have a clearer understanding of her for what she was: a studio creation. Someone picked up and molded into something, then handed a bag of tricks and taught how to use them. And told to stick to them. And she used them well. And there's a value in that kind of acting, in that kind of persona creation and projection. But my heart doesn't go out to it anymore. It leaves me a little aloof, holds me at a distance, and I don't particularly care to bridge it. All this to say, this is kind of how I feel about Calandre: a vintage-ish vibe with a slight modern tint, pretty and appropriate, a little tantalized by danger, or by the performance of it, but ultimately too orderly and straight to really go for it. It'll chat up Bogie and call it a day. To each their own.

Fracas by Robert Piguet

Demented. Brilliant. Ever seen Dorothy Malone in "Written on The Wind"? The only difference is this isn't just playing a vamp; it is what it is, through and through.

Infusion d'Iris by Prada

A Grace Kelly of fragrance. Pretty. Aloof. Never really allowed to reach full potential. Works best, and most interestingly, I think, as a masculine.

Eau des Baux by L'Occitane

Well this doesn't do anything, now does it? Kind of is just... there. Kind of just sits there. And after a while of the same it fades. There's a market out there for linear fragrances (specially at this cost). To me it feels unfinished. Not even that really, feels more like an ingredient being sold as the whole thing. Neutral rating because it is competent - and there are worse things to smell of.

1 Million by Paco Rabanne

Now this is something. Something I can't think of anything worse to smell of than. Boys' locker room after gym class at a "traditional" boarding school for rich teens with absentee parents and no authority figures to reign them in. You can feel the toxicity from a mile off. No thanks.

Chance Eau de Toilette by Chanel

To paraphrase whoever (Salinger maybe?) if someone comes out at me with this, I duck, brother, I duck.

Coco Noir by Chanel

The bland Coco! Every large-ish family has that one sibling.

Fleur de Chine by Tom Ford

Now this is a Tom Ford I can get behind. It feels like all of Coco Chanel's wildest orientalist fetishes amped up to the nth with caution thrown to the wind. Take up your coromandel screens and let's party in the nude, Coco! Red lipstick only. Meow. (I know! Even I can't tell whether I'm serious sometimes).

Baiser Volé by Cartier

Someone check her pulse, or is she always this pale? Darling bottle, though, and I suspect if you're the audience for it, it's a certain strike. Does what it does well, and with artistry and character rather than mere competence. Maybe not for me, but sure to be just the thing for others.

No. 5 Eau Première by Chanel

Pretty, prim and sexless. Chanel supposedly said she wanted No. 5 to "smell like a woman." I can't see her wanting any version of her famous creation smelling like this particular woman. Better than the vast majority of junk out there, but you still can't help wishing it had more of a finger on the pulse. Or more of a pulse.

No. 5 Eau de Parfum by Chanel

It's that good. I favor the EDP for when I want more bitterness and less comfort. Not as rounded as the golden elixir of the parfum, or as cozy as the soapier and woodier EDT, this has more jagged edges, a redder rose. Like so many Chanels, a go anywhere, do anything, be anyone scent. For my money, not cheap, but worth my money. If I could only have one... I'm tempted to say it would probably be this.

No. 5 Eau de Toilette by Chanel

It's a special kind of cozy, like sitting on a couch with a book while the fire is crackling in the fireplace. I see this as the soapier and woodier No. 5, and in a way the more intellectual one. Scratch that, the more introverted one, the more down-to-earth one. It's not the glamour gal of the parfum version, nor is it the tailored bitter bite of the EDP. If it was acting in a film, it would be the supporting character in a blockbuster, or maybe the main in an indie flick. A man could certainly use it, but, even though I see this as the woodier one, I think the other (to my nose more interesting) versions would work better.

La Panthère by Cartier

I'll be the first to admit when I initially approached this I was trepidatious. A "modern chypre," they called it. And the bottle made me think of Coco Mad. I love that one for how gauche it is, but don't think the world needs yet another remake. And though I think there are similarities (this can also be a girl's night out fragrance, with big hair, high-heels, cosmopolitans and the allure of a fancy brand name to lend it credibility and fanciness), I also think there are differences enough that this doesn't feel like a copy cat to me in the least, though it might appeal to the same customer as Coco Mad.

Here's the thing, and I know some people might be coming at me with the pitchforks: I think it works, and I think it does what it says on the tin as far as being a modern interpretation of a chypre. It's not a Mitsouko or a No. 19 or any of the modern indie chypres. No, it's a chypre that's made to sell and sell well at that, and I think it's well to face it: a lot of what perfumistas dig probably doesn't sell that well with the larger audience out there. This I think will. It's a good balancing act between opposites that manages to land always just so on the side of what's probably more appealing to today's tastes: it has a seriousness and a kind of restraint to it, but it is cheerful as well; it has what can pass in the general imagination as a vintage undertone, but doesn't feel dated; it has a slightly mannish appeal, but it's recognizably fruity and "girly." It's not a scent for teenagers, but nor is it a 40s and up situation.

To me it hits a lot of the same boxes as a famous chypre of yore that I don't see talked about a lot: YSL Y. That was another sophisticated chypre that was more cheerful and approachable than what most would expect from the fragrance genre, without being too frivolous (the keyword here being "too") or too much. I think this knows how to hold itself, and also how to let loose. It might be a fruity cocktail of a drink, but she's a smart cookie too. She's no nerd nor geek nor dusty intellectual, but neither is her life all about dancing the night away. She strikes a good balance. Composure and joy. For a lot of reasons (the packaging included) I think this is probably the more appealing and commercially successful of two recent "modern chypre" interpretations that actually feel appropriately chypre to me (the other being Chloé Nomade - which is earthier and less glam, and not something I think anyone would think of as a going-out scent).

I say thumbs up, but something in the back of my head prevents me from full (or enthusiastic) endorsement.

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li by Hermès

For all its artistry, the Jardin series is far from my cup of tea, but I think this is the best they have to offer in the line. Bodiless and spectral as all the rest, but it has just this hint of something like wit and vision trying to break out from its prison of watered-down unobtrusiveness.

Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel

This is a gin and tonic perfume with bite and an attitude. I experience it as kind of flat, and so agree with those who see it as a one-trick pony. It might be a good pony to have in your stable, but frankly, as long as we can still have Cristalle EDT, I don't much see the point. And when we can't have that anymore, this won't be no substitute either. I think you can find a lot like it for a lot less. Probably at L'Occitane they'll have something for you, though I don't think the bottle will look as good on a dressing table or feel as good in the hand. And let's face it, that's kind of at least part of the appeal of Chanel. I think this works for someone who doesn't generally like "perfumey perfumes" and wants to smell a littleeee "natural" (or a little like what they think something natural smells like). Just had an eureka moment: this smells just like a particular low-cost lemon popsicle I used to have as a kid on the beach or on summers. Fruttare, anyone? I give it a pass, but understand the appeal.

Chanel Pour Monsieur by Chanel

A slightly attractive science teacher in moth-eaten tweeds kind of scent. He's skinny and gangly, looks good in those glasses, looks even better without them, but alas: he's not looking at you. I get the appeal, and occasionally am charmed by it. Ultimately, though, he's not my type.

Edit: I'd say women, give this a try. Alternatively I'd say: men, give No. 19 a try (parfum formulation is preferable).

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