1979 New Wave by Les Bains Guerbois

Soapy fresh, with a bracingly minty opening that seems to hang around longer than usual, thanks in no small part to the supporting aldehydes and clean musks. My missus even gave an unsolicited compliment on it and THAT is rare. A touch of cold creamy orris highlights the next phase but the woodsy backbone is a little sparse, a sliver of cedar at best. Not that I mind it too much for it wears like an eau de cologne. Short-lived in its most interesting phase but what a ride! And re-applying it kinda reminds me of carefree younger days, popping a fresh stick of spearmint gum in my mouth as I step out in search of new adventures.

For fans of this genre, 8.5 out of 10.

Marketing info:-
Perfumer: Dominique Ropion
Category: Woody, Floral, Mint
Top notes: Peppermint, Spearmint, Aldehydes
Heart notes: Orris Concrete, Virginia Cedar
Base notes: Australian Sandalwood, Musk, Amber Wood

Bourbon Vanilla by Ermenegildo Zegna

Expectations aside, this could potentially be a challenging fragrance for fans of vanilla scents. First off there's nothing boozy about Zegna's interpretation of the popular bean. It smells unpleasantly chemical - a bad facsimile of raw still-in-the-pod vanilla beans with a strongly bitter almost almond-like tinge to it.

Performance is excellent but given its nose-curling opening act it is not exactly an advantage. While the scent did get better late stage as it recedes into the deeply woody dry down, it took some serious willpower on my part not to scrub it off my skin prematurely.

With so many contenders in an already crowded field, this one sticks out for all the wrong reasons. Small wonder [b]Bourbon Vanilla[/b] gets sent to the locker room early (discontinued).

Noble VIII Rococo Immortelle by Clive Christian

Immortelle or everlasting flower has a love-hate relationship with me. Gloriously showcased in Annick Goutal's Sable (vintage) but somewhat discordant and a drag in Histoires de Parfums' 1740 and Diptyque Eau Lente. Its curry-like hint of spice coupled with that maple syrupy undertone doesn't exactly make it an easy partner in perfumery though it seems many perfumers welcome the challenge.

This Clive Christian entry takes a cautious approach with immortelle, using its baritonal almost hay-like warmth as a counterpoint to the brighter cooler notes of the citrus and the drier texture of papyrus. It is this delicate tightrope act that makes it interesting, even euphoric for me. Heck, I don't even miss the vetiver. A light ambery finish provides that post-date afterglow.

This is not an immortelle-forward fragrance despite its name. And because of its hefty price tag I was even better prepared to hate it. Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately (for my wallet) her charms as an elegant spicy aromatic scent won me over. I felt compelled to ask her out on a ‘date'.

With me she danced like a graceful ballerina. Light on her feet, she leaped and she twirled. Fresh, airy, aromatic. I was impressed as this phase lasted a good number of hours, a gift that keeps on giving in whiffs of olfactory pleasure. The drydown when it finally arrived felt warm but far from sweet.

While I do believe the scent may play out differently on other wearers as immortelle notes tend to do, it seems this particular version has nothing but everlasting love for me. It's high time I revisit our relationship.

Sahraa Oud by Fragrance Du Bois

Ok, let's address the elephant in the room: Sahraa Oud is not an oud-forward fragrance, despite its name and claims to a substantial oud content. If you're looking for oud-focused scent, please look elsewhere. Sahraa Oud is first and foremost an amber-centric scent. And a darn good one at that, its opulent radiance especially enjoyable when the weather is cool and dry. A flat cheap amber this is not. Sahraa Oud plays a hauntingly beautiful symphony of rose-tinted amber, saffron-laced oud over silky sandalwood.

Yet there is something comfortingly familiar about the central amber accord. It reminds me of classic orientals, possibly some vintage Guerlains. I've also heard comparisons to Andy Tauer's fabled L'Air du Desert Marocain. While that could only be taken as a compliment it falls a little short: Sahraa Oud will turn more heads. It is that stunning. And it smells pretty much like its price tag - expensive. But don't let that stop you ‘cuz when you feel like a billion dollars, when it starts to rain lace knickers and silk thongs, you know it is worth every cent and then some.

Thumbs up. Way up.

Black No. 1 / Blackbird by House of Matriarch

Evergreen conifers laden with snow. A curl of smoke from dying embers. Black leather. Burnished steel. Spellbinding magic.

The Witcher was here.

Lucky Oud by Bortnikoff

A lovely blend of floral sandalwood with woodsy leathery underpinnings. I don't find it excessively sweet; the sandalwood is clearly not from the famed buttery Mysore variety. Can't really comment on the wild Thai Lotus other than it seems to bring a subtle floralcy to the sandal note. Skeptics might even be tempted to call it a marketing ploy to play up the desirable ‘exotic factor'. I'm sure some would disagree but IMO Dimitry could have used another flower in its place and it probably wouldn't have made all that much of a difference scent-wise.

Interestingly however the area of skin you apply it affects its presentation and evolution. In the crook of my arm the oud shows up early: a deep baritone presence with slightly rubbery nuances. On the back of my hands however, I get more of the tea rose and warm floral sandalwood and less of the oud.

In a nutshell: refined. Or perhaps ‘underwhelming' if your tastes lean towards the stronger more challenging end. Thankfully mine don't.

Not a projection beast, Lucky Oud is arguably the house's friendliest oud fragrance to date. While I'm not blown away, I can't deny its charm as a versatile oud number for daily wear.

War and Peace by Areej le Doré

Rose and Leather. Musks and Powder. War and Peace. This is an intriguing shapeshifter. Which particular combos you get seems to vary with ambient temperature and humidity. On a cool day as it's been today I seem to catch more of the rose and leather off the top, and light vetiver and ambery resins up close. On warmer days it goes all Habit Rouge on me - very powdery with animalic, nearly fecal undertones.

I love the rose-dark leather duet but the other, not so much. The ingredients feel top notch and as with most Areej Le Doré fragrances, offer room for the composition to evolve into something great. I know some owners of War and Peace are wondering if they should sit on it, wait for the war to be over or sell it on eBay to the highest bidder for some peace of mind. I know what I would do: WEAR IT.

Plumeria de Orris by Areej le Doré

Mildly soapy yet barely indolic white florals arranged delicately over the apricot-tinted suede of orris butter, embellished ever so slightly with the creaminess of sandalwood, Plumeria de Orris bears the hallmark of a classic floral oriental, with emphasis on the floral aspect. Clearly this isn't something I'd recommend to the average guy.

Since I received my bottle 3 weeks ago I had taken my own sweet time with it and grown to enjoy it even more with every wear. Starting with 2 sprays I'm now averaging 6 to 8. It really blossoms with generous applications. Yet despite the oft-challenging quality of natural ingredients I am amazed at the level of balance and refinement achieved by Russian Adam here. It is almost unrecognizable as an Areej Le Doré fragrance, to be honest. Tag on some aldehydes and it could well be mistaken for a long forgotten vintage Chanel parfum from the good old days when each bottle contains more of the good stuff rather than fillers. Believe in the hype or don't, either way Areej Le Doré is bent on bringing the ‘fine' back to fine fragrances.

Projection and sillage are at a polite arm's length for the most part. Longevity is as usual with this house, second to none. As for the civet, alas, it isn't quite the snarling creature I was half-hoping for.

Still I'm excited to discover how Plumeria de Orris would evolve over the next year or so but at the rate I'm spritzing myself with this, I'm afraid I may never find out.

Mandarava by Parfum Prissana

A gorgeous floral incense made of excellent ingredients, with luscious champaca and jasmine notes cutting through the dry ash of burning incense beautifully. The inspiration was clearly one borne of the perfumer's own Buddhist faith for the scent is nothing if not evocative of a grand temple's inner sanctum, at least for the first hour. Such associations cannot help but give pause to Mandarava's wearability as a personal fragrance. Thankfully its remaining lifespan leans more towards classical florals /incense orientals.

I've been looking for great incense compositions for a long time and I think I've finally found the perfumer who can weave magic with this material. Next to MA NISHTANA, MANDARAVA is yet another impressive incense masterpiece Prin Lomros' late grandmother would have been proud of.

Squid by Zoologist Perfumes

An airy almost ozonic scent featuring a back-and-forth but shortlived tug of war between the briny saltiness of ambergris and the warmer resinous axis of opoponax /benzoin.

In the absence of complex structures SQUID feels decidedly contemporary to me yet smells unlike any designer fragrances already out there. It made me curious so I had to, well...Google further.

As it turned out the IFF perfumer Celine Barel was also credited with a slew of designer releases such as CK Shock for Him Street Edition, David Beckham Signature for Him and Clean Summer Sailing. In other words she has full-fledged designer cred. If ‘inclusivity' is indeed the reigning buzzword I guess Victor Wong is a very clued-in practitioner.

Congratulations once again to the house for another edition of intriguing but wearable art. If you're looking for a Zoologist with mass market aspirations, be sure to catch this SQUID.

Thirty-three by Ex Idolo

33-year old aged wild oud?? Yeah, right. Where's the oud, really? In the marketing copy, that's where. Nowhere else. Doesn't Ex-Idolo know oud scent profiles vary with age and terroir? The fact they just labeled it as Chinese rather than a specific province is a dead giveaway. Not to mention how expensive wild oud oil truly s... I'm notifying the BS police on this one and in good conscience won't be recommending it.

Other than the poorly researched ad copy, scent-wise Thirty Three is decent enough as a woody rose-patchouli fragrance to be worn by either gender without offending anyone. It almost makes up for its lack of character, making it a suitable albeit pricey option for any beginner dipping their toe into a crowded and highly competitive genre.

Aramis Tobacco Reserve by Aramis

Warm, airy and aromatic with just a touch of coumarinic sweetness in the base and a lick of salt you could almost taste. I went in with low expectations and walked away pleasantly surprised.

After smelling many of the more bombastic attempts by perfumers to replicate the intriguing scent of lingering cigar smoke none succeeded with as much finesse. Aramis TOBACCO RESERVE got pretty darn close, but still, no cigar.

Mown by Hendley Perfumes

I can see why MOWN could be evocative to someone. It is a comforting scent - warm, toasty and almost savory/buttery in parts. It reminds me of sunny childhood days chasing one another all over the field and coming in for late breakfast in an airy sunlit kitchen. The aromatic bits of tobacco are however much less apparent to my nose and could easily be missed. But the hay is front and centre.

If Serge Lutens Chergui and Jeux de Peau have a younger sibling, this could well be her. She's a little shy though, and may need some coaxing on fabric.

I'd rate it a 7 out of 10.

Beau de Jour by Tom Ford

A stripped down re-mix of old school aromatic fougeres employing Tom Ford's olfactory sleight of hand to conjure up oakmoss' bitter dryness within what is essentially a lavandin-and-patchouli one-two punch.

BEAU DE JOUR gives a pretty good performance though, projecting the occasional aromatic whiff of ‘20th century gentleman-style grooming' within the first 3-4 hours of wear. ‘Barbershop', anyone? Somehow it brings up for me images of authoritative patriarchs, stern headmasters and influential business barons. Unfortunately the drydown is not quite as evocative and if that aspect is important to you, it's probably best to look elsewhere.

Yes, nobody's going to give it marks for ‘originality'. No doubt you could find similar fragrances with better value propositions IF you knew where to look AND care to spend the time to do so. Tom Ford knew this. He made a calculated bet that his target clientele comprises of busy men who probably make a lot more money in the time it takes to search and acquire a cheaper (vintage) fragrance of similar persuasion.

As someone who enjoys this style of fragrance AND appreciate the value of time, this purchase is a no brainer. Well played, Tom.

A Midsummer Dream by Roja Dove

OMG, this is DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS! I don't really pick out individual notes as they seem to ‘vibrate', weaving in and out far too quickly for my nose to get a firm lock on, the melange of notes blending seamlessly into one another. Light florals, spiced resins, cool carroty iris, grassy-vetivery and woodsy-vanillic at various points during its languorous evolution.

Personally I'd wear it even if I find it leaning a touch towards the feminine side of the divide. And if I happen to catch a whiff of this out there, there is a 100% chance my STALKER MODE will be activated. Truly top shelf stuff!

Aurum d'Angkhor by Sultan Pasha

Do you look at a Van Gogh painting and scrutinise the brush strokes and the myriad hues used by the legendary artist? Or do you simply enjoy the wonder of the experience? Very much in the same vein ask not what Aurum d'Angkor smells like for surely there are no words that do it justice. It is the scent that time itself forgot, of trees and roots so ancient they lived through the rise and fall of mighty kingdoms, of blooms and secret tinctures of such grand opulence they once graced the skin of monarchs and heirs of royal lineage.

All these from a single drop of perfume?
Mind: BLOWN.
Now excuse me while I pick up my jaw from the floor.

Homage Attar by Amouage

On my skin HOMAGE was mostly a faint soapy rose over a cloud of frankincense with hints of neroli brightening it somewhat in the beginning. Despite a more-than-generous application, the depth and range of development I had come to expect from such a fabled attar did not materialise. What's going on, Amouage?

Surely anyone would have been forgiven for having similarly sky-high expectations. It even drove me to seek out and blind buy a decant of the red box vintage just to make sure I get the really great stuff.

Don't get me wrong. It's not bad, just that its symphony seems lightweight in the deeper bass section. There's no oud, no amber, no sandalwood to offer deeper contrast and anchor the composition. Projection is weak but lasts well as a skin scent. Had this been a blindfold test there was a mid-phase where I might even pass it off for an aldehydic Chanel which under ordinary circumstances is a big compliment. But we are talking about THE ‘legendary' Homage from Amouage; this experience was nothing if not a major letdown.

Bonheur by Bortnikoff

Airy and aromatic in equal measures, BONHEUR is an excellent composition showcasing the backlighting effect of ambergris on what is essentially a chypre oriental. There is a breezy-fresh almost marine-like undercurrent smoothing out the spikes from the spices and moderating the warmth of the tonka/vanilla base.

Projection is above average for the first hour or two but settles down fairly quickly to a polite yet noticeable presence thereafter. I get the occasional whiff as I go about my usual activity.

Overall I am impressed. Having had the pleasure of wearing ambergris compositions from Areej Le Doré, Bortnikoff's BONHEUR is arguably the easiest to wear, comfortably positioned between the more aromatic Atlantic Ambergris and the sweeter Baikal Gris.

Iris Homme by Parfum Satori

Zesty lemons softened by a hint of orange blossoms pave the way to a cool if slightly powdery iris heart. There is a touch of warmth from the base sandalwood but the overall texture remains clean, airy and dry with an almost Zen-like austerity about it. I thought it smells and wears a lot like pure frankincense.

An iris bomb this is not but more of a polite and polished Japanese interpretation of the citrus-floral-woods genre with a projection that is gentlemanly modest yet robust enough to last the average work day (not in Japan apparently).

Is IRIS HOMME worth paying a premium for? It depends. If I were new to fragrances, probably not. But at the stage I am at, it makes a fine wardrobe addition.

Hyde by Hiram Green

If I'd tried something as smoky as HYDE 10 years ago I'd have scrubbed it off within minutes. The birch tar opening is pitch black, tarry and acrid, quickly overwhelming whatever hesperidic topnotes this fragrance may have in the beginning. Do not spray this at the office!

At this juncture I couldn't help but compare it to another smoky beast - Zoologist' T-Rex with its savage roar of an opening. Objectively speaking HYDE is the tamer creature. And where T-Rex rampaged on to an interesting ashy floral phase, HYDE mellows down more conventionally, bedding to a comfortably warm vanilla and leathery labdanum.

What_? That's it?? To be honest my expectations were a little higher to begin with. Blame it on the over-the-moon reviews it's gotten thus far. Mind you, HYDE isn't bad, it IS good. But it tramples on old grounds, plays like a B-grade movie with the edgy opening act, a conventional storyline and an ending you could spot from a mile away. Running time seems to be on the shorter side too. The whole experience made me miss Ambre Noir from Sonoma Scent Studio even more.

Perhaps it's better for me to switch channels and look for the real beast...

Eau d'Aviateur by Atelier Flou

A lightly soapy orange-accented musk, repackaged into a fancy bottle with an even fancier price tag. I really wanted to discredit it but I simply couldn't; smelling it on my skin put me in a cheerful, charitable mood.

Tabac Vert by Rogue Perfumery

Aromatic leaves of tobacco warmed over a bed of dry cedar and resinous oakmoss. Tabac Vert eschews the conventionally heavier vanillic accoutrements in favor of a lighter brighter approach, resulting in an elegantly fresh woody chypre.

If Vintage Tabarome reminds one of wood-panelled cigar rooms in men-only clubs then Tabac Vert takes you elsewhere to a private bar with a cigarette on your lips and a glass of Old Fashioned in your hand.

Grimoire by Anatole Lebreton

An intriguing portrait of an alpha male painted in hues of dark greens, ashy greys and earthy browns. In my mind it smells primordial, the scent of long-forgotten ancient forests with its intricately woven tapestry of ferns, moss and lichen-covered bark.

OK it's probably not something the average candy-loving guy would want to smell of. Yet GRIMOIRE surprised me with its thoughtfulness and overall wearability. The blending is seamless, texturally it feels comfortably dry and cool in perfect counterbalance to the saltish skin-like warmth pulsing beneath it like a living beating heart.

GRIMOIRE's deep grey/green and dry chypre-like profile places it in the same postal code as Guerlain Mitsouko, Dior Eau Sauvage Parfum and Papillon Artisan Dryad - 3 highly respected compositions which makes it a big winner and contender for my top fragrance discovery of the year!

Les Trésors de Sriwijaya by Auphorie

A finely blended oriental comprising of smoky resins, warm spices and lush tropical flowers shot through with the house's note(?) of caramelised Malaccan brown sugar molasses. Lurking underneath it all is a faintly musky leathery animalic presence that rears its nose every once in a while. 3 hours in drydown beckons, an abstract harmony of warm spices and incensy resins.

I'm not blown away by this composition as it stays on the safe side throughout but it wears well and the ingredient quality feels top notch as usual. The fragrance evolution is far from linear with sections of the symphony taking turns to play up their solos.

This is probably not the best Auphorie has to offer but it is easily one of their most wearable. What I appreciate most is the fragrance's agility and balance, carrying its substantial heft well from start to finish. At no time did I feel overwhelmed despite the oppressive tropical humidity of my locale.

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