Camel by Zoologist Perfumes

Finally, after trying several Zoologist scents, I have finally found one that actually smells somewhat animalic! Camel kicks off with some rich fruit (dates) and incense, and very quickly too with a really sharp, shitty smell (civet is right, but it's not in the base), that is saved from being completely foul by the fact that it is encased in sweet and spicy surrounding elements. This doesn't last that long and as spices rise and fall, the scent gradually transforms into a more conventional soft amber that dries down into a warm, musky sandalwood and tonka bean. The opening is startling, but after that, it just seems to give up rather than continue to be interesting.

Chipmunk by Zoologist Perfumes

The ideal gorpcore scent, this opens with big fruit and nuts, before giving way gradually to a woody centre. The drydown is a warm patchouli and more woods, with a touch of vetiver. This is a lot more harmonious than some of the other releases from Zoologist, which is good. It's very pleasant and wearable, but Zoologist might also have lost some interest in that movement away from the more challenging scents of its early days. Whisper it, but Chipmunk is just a bit... boring.

Jubilation XXV Man by Amouage

This is the pinacle of genius from both Amouage and Bertrand Duchaufour. It is a scent that gives the impression of being massive and powerful, but it does not achieve this by being simply loud and showy but by a calm and intense complexity, and what seems to be an endless opening up of new elements, almost like a fractal spice market. I am not given to exaggeration and I rarely find that scents live up to their reputation, but Jubilation XXV does... and then some.

Elephant by Zoologist Perfumes

I'm beginning to wonder if there's something wrong with me because I seem to smell entirely different things to the reviews posted on various fragrance sites, which mostly seem to wax lyrical about how they can smell all the listed ingredients in exactly the way the copy says.

My latest bout of olfactory dissonance was with Elephant by Zoologist. Apparently, I should be able to detect the light nights of tea, green leaves and magnolia before it goes all coconut and ends up in a sandalwood and amber drydown. Reviews have described it as 'light and airy.' Here's what I get: there are no topnotes. No tea, no green leaves. This goes straight into what smells like a raw and rancid cumin / dirt smell which stay with you for quite a long time (well, I had to wash it off my hands because it was so foul). It's like that unidentifiable but over-intrusive perfume that once assailed you on the bus or train that turned out to be being worn by some eccentric person, apparently with no sense of smell. Eventually it does ease into that quite sweet and pleasant chocalate-sandalwood dry-down, that I will agree with. But this it not 'light' or 'airy', it doesn't conjure images of tropical forests or anything like that. That's the copy speaking. This is unbalanced, harsh and bad for too much of the time until it's finally, blessedly, gone.

Squid by Zoologist Perfumes

This is alright. It's not as interesting as the creators seem to think but, although it isn't something I would choose to wear again, it's eventually sort of inoffensively wearable. And that's probably the first time I've ever thought that about an aquatic. There's a rather pointless peppery opening - I'm not really sure what it was supposed to be doing - and then it's all incense and dark sea water. The latter is achieved by various synthetics and like all aqua accords, is pretty unpleasant to my nose, but the inky-water phase doesn't last very long and you end up with a musky incense-inflected light aqua drydown, which is reminscent of one of the less offensive generic 1990s style 'blue' scents. I wouldn't buy this. But I would quite like to experience a perfume that was as challenging and interesting as the copy. Shame this isn't it.

Neal's Yard Cologne by Neal's Yard

This men's cologne from a British herbalist is very different from your average commercial fragrance. Everything is up front and it's really quite radical is how refreshing and bitter the herbal and citrus opening is. While the citrus disappears quite quickly as is to be expected, he very natural feeling and bracing bitterness from this opening lasts quite a long time longer than the topnotes in most fragrances. It is gradually smoothed out and ultimately replaced by a floral, mainly lavender accord with something more solidly woody, which I assume is the balsam. It's not long-lasting over all, but that long in-your-face bitter opening is really quite unique and worth experiencing. I return to it regularly if not frequently.

Macaque Yuzu Edition by Zoologist Perfumes

I spend a lot of time in Japan, and I am very familiar with yuzu as a fruit, as juice and in various drinks and foods. This perfume has a vanishingly tiny relationship with yuzu, if any at all. There's a bit of bitter juniper, no real citrus, in the opening but this soon degenerates into a pretty synthetic and generic woody-mossy smell. It's a modern fougère, basically, and not an interesting one. Sad.

Copper Skies by Kerosene

Very surprising to me that so few people seem to note the (to me) obvious burnt metallic note in the opening. I don't think I'm just imagining it! It's not unplesant, but definitely there along with the cloves and herbs. This is a very intriguing opening but as all openings do, it gives way all too soon, however what gradually replaces it in a very non-linear way, is a heavy tobacco-cedar-resin combination that gets so powerful after an hour or so that it smells like a very dark incense. Gradually, this lightens and sweetens over time, but this is not one of those nice vanilla-tobacco scents, this is a rich and unapologetic tobacco, that takes a long time to fade into the base amber. This may be my favourite of all John Pegg's creations.

Pomélo Paradis by Atelier Cologne

This is just horrible. The grapefruit hit up front is okay, even if a bit 'uncanny' in its impossibly unnatural brightness... but it rapidly degenerates into something that smells like boiled sweets. There is a sort of almond note at some point and something slightly musky, but really boiled sweets is it. For once I am begging for it to be over, not wanting it to last.

Oud Assoluto by Pineider

This one is not for the faint-hearted! It's big –no, it's enormous– and even a small amount will quickly come to the noses and notice of others, and it will not necessarily generate a positive reaction. It starts of quite interestingly with an intense smokey spice (the list ingredient is cinnamon) which I wish had lasted but which quickly disappears very quickly in favour of a heavy combination of jasmine and rose, and I mean really heavy. This is the richest, almost at the point of rotting, rose and the most intense late-evening-at-the-end-of-summer jasmine, which is pushed forward by sticky oud base. While this is supposedly a masculine fragrance, this comes over like the almost unbearable scent of brothels in an Anais Nin story, an extremely sexual femaleness, so I'm really glad I only put on a tiny amount. It also lasts. The other basenotes don't start to emerge until a couple of hours afterwards, and while the jasmine fades, hints of wood and amber moderate the rose-oud core but never entirely overtake it. If you like oud and rose, you'll love this. It's very well done. But it's not for me.

Cuoio Nobile by Pineider

A pleasant and entirely forgettable, sweet lavender, lightly leathery and ultimately ghostly tobacco scent. I understand that the original formulation was more memorable. This is not.

Habit Rouge by Guerlain

I am sorry but I'm going to join the 'meh' faction here. Habit Rouge is fine. It smells nice. But it's really nothing special even for the time it was first made and certainly not today. Despite being labelled as masculine, it also strikes me as one of the most unisex, in fact sexless, scents I've smelled. It starts off with an almost imperceptible, sneeze-and-you-miss-it touch of lemon, but that's already surrounded by a rose-carnation florality, which is made tolerable by something of a woody undertone. That undertone fades away in favour of a predominantly vanilla accord, leaving a very sweet and soft vanilla-rose scent, with a very polite and shy touch of leather, and that's pretty much how it stays. Now I'm not really a huge fan of rose or really sweet fragrances, and vanilla has to be combined with either more boozy, leather or tobacco notes for me to really love it, so this is not going to be one I wear very often, maybe only occasionally in summer.

Myths Man by Amouage

Myths reminds me that Amouage don't care much for how perfumes are 'supposed' to work. The basenotes to this one are Ash and Leather, but those are what hit you right from the start, and from there it settles into a slightly chemical floral scent, with just the underpinning of leather and smoke. But then gradually they gradually reassert themselves only not quite as fiercely as at the start. It's interesting, and while I dig the ash and leather combination, I am not quite so enamored of the specific combination of floral elements. Definitely a seasonally specific fragrance: I couldn't imagine wearing this on anything but a cold late fall or winter day.

parfums*PARFUMS Series 3 Incense: Kyoto by Comme des Garçons

Kyoto starts off with a mixture of frankincense, cypress and cedar, before the incense slowly reduces to lingering smoke and a vetiver core reveals itself. It's like a slightly more restrained version of Encre Noir, and there are also hints of something floral (maybe that's the Immortelle). It dries down in a pretty linear and speedy way after that, so I am guessing, like Encre Noir, that this relies a lot on the Iso-E. But I don't mind that: if it smells good I don't care how it's achieved chemically.

NB: I would just add to all you very imaginative folks out there, that I have spent a lot of time in Japan and in Kyoto, and there is nothing 'Kyoto' or even particularly Japanese about the smell so far as I can tell. It doesn't smell like Japanese temple incense or temples or shrines, or Japanese forests or whatever other fantasy Japonisme you have in mind. Some of those would be very interesting scents to capture but this isn't doing that.

Sunshine Man by Amouage

I don't know why everyone got so excited about this when it came out, a lot of then actively people annoyed by this supposed betrayal of Amouage's style. It's really just like Caron's Pour Un Homme, or Kilian's Straight to Heaven, which are both basically boozy lavender-vanilla-tonka scents. Except where Caron is refined, and Kilian is (a little) avant-garde, this, being Amouage, just has everything turned up to 11. It's still very nice but it really only needs a very small application.

Broken Theories by Kerosene

This is nice. It's starts off as a smokey incense and then eases down into a lovely vanilla-tobacco which stays a little smokey. I guess the nearest comparison, which others have made, is Tauer's Lonestar Memories, but where LM is more on the rough / outdoors side, BT is polite and very much more indoors in the same way that CdG's Incense series is, and stays very close to the skin. It's a really well crafted combination and one of my favourite tobacco fragrances so far.

Vetiver by Guerlain

(reviewing the vintage EDC formulation)

This is so good while it lasts, but the problem is that, like most EDCs, it really doesn't last. You get a bracing green citrus up front, that gets displaced by a really dry centre, like nutmeg, pepper and dried grass, with a touch of something herbal, then the vetiver arrives properly and it's the dry and austere variant of vetiver, and it's so, so good and then it's all... gone. This is literally in minutes, barely an hour anyway. I can really see why this was later reformulated as an EDT, whatever the complaints from some about the formulation. Such a great scent, shame it didn't last.

Azemour les Orangers by Parfum d'Empire

I had been really looking forward to trying Azemour Les Orangers, so the reality is a bit disappointing. This is another one that makes me think that many reviewers have been overly infuenced by reading the ad copy and the list of ingredients, rather than how it actually smells.

It starts off with a vaguely orangey air but mostly the initial scent is nothing more than one of those commercial aqua- / blue fragrances that were so popular in the 1990s. Luckily it gets better, and the middle really is orange flower / neroli, before it settles down into a grassy drydown, that ultimately ends up smelling like something very familiar...

Then I remembered what it was: 4711! Yes, this much praised 'new' scent isn't really much more than a slightly more sophisticated and orangey version of Europe's oldest and lightest Eau de Cologne. And it doesn't last much longer either. Does the Emperor have any clothes?

Vetiver Ambrato by Bois 1920

This is very refined and old school, and I love it. There are a lot of ingredients listed for this, but really, it is what the name says it is. There is a somewhat fresh opening, which very quickly gives way via a slightly powdery barbershop route, to the heart of this fragrance, which is all wood and vetiver, with just an edge of patchouli. Over time, it becomes a real amber, smoothed with quite a lot of sweet (vanilla?) and musky tobacco.

More than anything else this reminds me of Mäurer and Wirtz's classic, Tabac, but more refined and tasteful... just better. It's supposed to be unisex (or as they say, 'shared') but it smells almost stereotypically masculine to me, at least until the drydown.

Eau Parfumée au Thé Noir by Bulgari

Another highly rated scent... and another disappointment. This is an almost totally forgettable, lightly aquatic feminine fragrance (classified as 'shared') with nothing to do with tea of any kind, except if you're being incredibly generous. It's predominantly a watery rose to start with - and Lord knows that the rise of the aquatic was my least favourite development in perfumes ever - and then it flattens even more if possible: I guess that's what they are defining as 'tea' but if so it's a tea made by people who have no appreciation for tea at all, like a some flavoured tea bag dunked in luke-warm water. Just when you've almost entirely forgotten about it, because it's so close to the skin anyway, a hint of a not very impressive oud-ish note emerges (which I suppose is an artificial oud) with a breath of patchouli. It's like Tauer's L'Eau a day after you've been wearing it. Not offensive, just unimpressive.

Replica At the Barber's by Martin Margiela

This is actually by far my favourite of the Replica series that I've tried because unlike many of the others, its pretentions are successful and it actually achieves what it sets out to. For once, the listed ingredients are pretty much exactly what one can smell: there is a rather metallic herbal opening, followed by lavender core, and from there it's all musk and tonka. But At the Barbershop is a little cleverer than this: the earlier notes never really disappear entirely and in the drydown it really does smell like the air in a barbershop rather than a barbershop frgrance itself. Now, whether you actually like all this is still going to depend on whether this particularly evocative smell appeals to you. You may find it dated and dull. But I think this is well played.

Replica Jazz Club by Martin Margiela

This probably the most hyped of the men's scents in the Replica series is not quite such a postmodern joke about scent as some of the others. It's also not at all deserving of the sky-high ratings given by some here. It's perfectly pleasant, but it's also very simple and almost completely uncomplicated. As with others in the series, the listed notes are almost entirely bogus: there is no neroli or lemon in the opening, for example. You've read those reviews saying it's like some cool, free jazz improvisation? Bullshit. What you get is a massive alcoholic wash of rum, and this gradually replaced by tobacco and vanilla for the drydown. That is it. As I said, it's perfectly pleasant, but it's neither innovative nor even memorable and there are many fragrances out there that do this better.

Replica By the Fireplace by Martin Margiela

Like the worst of Margiela's clothes, too many of the Replica series of scents are really more of a knowing and ironic postmodern joke about the possibility of representation rather than a fragrance you might actually choose to wear for pleasure. This is one of these jokes. It's amusing enough, but it is lacking in any depth. You see all those fruity and flowery notes listed? Well, just as with Jazz Club, I don't think they are even part of this fragrance's actual profile. The people who say they are smelling them are just influenced by the fact that they have read the list. This scent starts with a blast of burnt sugar (this is not subtle chemistry here), and while the smokiness remains in the background, this gradually gives way to an equally unsubtle vanilla over time. And that is it, folks. Anyone who tells you different is just buying into the hype. Unless smelling like burnt sugar, smoke and vanilla is your thing then the only real use I can see for this is in layering, if you wanted to add a sweet smokey tone to an amber or oud.

Reflection Man by Amouage

This isn't really like anything else I've tried from Amouage. It's restrained, even a bit boring. It's pretty much a floral with some citrus on the opening... I've seen some reviews describing the opening as bitter, but I think they've just been reading the list of ingredients rather than actually paying attention to how it smells on the skin. It's not remotely bitter. It gradually gets more and more powdery and there's a bit of a woody vanilla (and something else a bit artificial and I'm not sure what it is) in the dry-down but it doesn't dominate. It's a well-done modern tribute to the barbershop, but it doesn't do this any better than a lot of other scents like it (almost anything from Dunhill, for example, who specialize in this kind of thing) and it has no real distinguishing element. Maybe that's what it's supposed to do, stay in the background, be polite, not push itself forward at all, but I like my scents to have at least something interesting about them.

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