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1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

To say the historical imagination of this house is Disneyesque would be unfair to Disney. Some very soft leather, then some toasty cocoa and a sprinkling of talc (sweaty hands anyone ?). Within less than ten minutes, it has settled into the air of a high-class shoe-shop on a rainy, midweek afternoon, where the Marquis offers you advice on brogues. Spineless. The website's botanical hokey matches its historical colour-supplementism : there is no such thing as 'davana sensualis', though the perfumista blogs copy the fictitious hype : davana is artemisia pallens. Maybe some bright spark will write some more ad-copy erudition along the lines of : rosa penisenlargens, cistus doubleyourmoneyata, and helichrysum everyonethinksyoureniceum. The chocolate, which many notice and think inappropriate to the Marquis, is the one bit of witty, historical factuality in the scent, because he was a chocoholic. If you forget the kwee titles for these scents and smell them blind, you find this one is at best a B+ leather/smoky wood, way way inferior to the old Bel-Ami, Equipage, Eau du Navigateur, Oud Cuir d'Arabie, etc etc etc. It gets ever more mysterious why Luca Turin gives so many stars to this collection of mediocrities.


Tcharas by AbdesSalaam Attar Profumo

May thick spicy dust be yours ! "And to you many camels, many dates and much cumin !" So they greeted each other, bowing low in the mountains of Afghanistan, amid the pepper-pots of their ancestors. There's a shrill acetone patchouli (on top, for once) which dies down into its own reverse, a lightly salted, slightly mentholated cedar full of calm self-assurance. It's an orientalist version of the same line's Gringo. Abdes Salam Attar (peace be upon him), the ‘Perfume Composer' of this picture-postcard, writes : “This perfume has been composed in memory of the famous aromatic resins cultivated on the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. Resins that possess a powerful and inebriating fragrance characterised by the strong animalic tone of the mountain farm barns. Never in my travels did I ever encounter such a mighty aroma able to blend so perfectly the feelings of untamed wildness and of sofisticate harmony. With a base of Civet and Castoreum and with the resinous and flowery essences available to perfumers I attempted to revive a whole epoch.”. I've known coffee-shops with a more animalic tone than this barn, though admittedly they were in Oregon. As with others from Via del Profumo, it has irreproachable materials, a good idea, and yet is only a a near-miss.


Fourreau Noir by Serge Lutens

A plunging neckline for the nose, lined with cocoa dust and feathers. It starts high and cold and sheerly lavendered, but very soon curvaceous suction sets in, you're in a tunnel of nougat, mourning and allure. After about half an hour, a stable aspect-shift has been established , and you can move, almost at will, between the upward, smoky notes and the gravitational warmth of almonds, or hover, like a fakir, in mid-air. Some say the opening reeks of dihydromyrcenol, but that's fine by me, I drink diydromyrcenol for breakfast while listening to my Culture Club CD. There is indeed something faintly off-putting about the whole thing, but then that's true of pretty much everything/everyone sexy.


Une Rose Chyprée by Tauer

Glittering sherbet Nahéma-ish rose (it's the bergamot as does it) caters to my weakness for sparkle. Has a clementine edge so twinkly it will probably turn out in the end to be a Horrid Paedophile or maybe a daytime TV presenter or both. Very fey and all the better for that, it is regrettably overtaken by dough in mid-career but that's often the way with svelte youngsters and is only a passing phase here. A rose in kid gloves powdered with dress-maker's chalk, I really must stop reading Lorca. The dry-down is more through warm berries/cola than chypre, moves on into sweetened, frail woods and incense (a shade of Sequoia, say, or even the sugars of CdG2), what the impeccable Vibert calls “mostly smoky vanillic amber”.


L'Eau de L'Eau by Diptyque

Shocking, momentarily delightful, it takes the spice-island/water-bed/sachet'o'herbs from the 1968 Diptyque L'Eau and colognizes it by adding a citrus sparkle at the top and going easy on the cinnamon and cloves, well, easier. But it's probably a mistake like CdG Anbar. After all, you don't really want a cologne that makes you feel as if bits of pot-pourri have got in your crannies, you want a cologne that wipes those crannies away. The odd combo of soapiness and dust (the orange blossom for the one, the geranium, lavender and pepper for the other) ought to counteract each other but manage not to, hang around you intertwined. It has up-to-dated the old formula with ginger and pink pepper and mandarin and petitgrain (the rose has gone), all very happening notes, but that just makes it more of a Hippie Icon; it's like seeing a fat man with long grey hair wearing a Vampire Weekend T-shirt.


Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens

Slimmer, younger sister of Chêne (2004), as I guess pine trees are indeed like oaks after a diet. Roughly. There are ten other perfumes from Serge Lutens which have either ‘wood' or the name of a tree in their names (not counting sandalwood). Facts are such a comfort, don't you find ? Anyway, to continue the pine-theme for a moment : the top of this has heady outreach, like umbrella pines, glory of the Mediterranean, limber women shaking their hair out way up high. This opening has a fine kerosene/caramel ambiguity to it, related to the camphor/ chocolate of Bornéo 1834 or the methylated indoles of Tubéreuse Criminelle. Unfortunately, the delicious teetering between piny and sweet can't last, and the scent soon descends into a luscious maple syrup candy, into that ole Serge Lutens soup o'fruits, the toasted plums of Arabie. And there, amid exotica and treacle, it comes, you might think to a sticky end, for this stage hangs around for really some time, but then eventually, the whole thing lightens up with vetiver and incense on the breeze. Tricky to give a verdict on : imagine the thumb wiggling. By the way : the name has several plays on words going on more or less pointlessly at the same time and so may well be a quotation from Derrida (isn't everything a quotation ?), but forget that ‘aiguilles' means ‘pine needles' as well as ‘high heels'. What you need to know is that ‘de fil en aiguilles' is an idiom for ‘seamless transition'; you might say it of a smooth talker who moved from subject to subject with perfect fluency. That's the sales pitch, the pitch pine, of this scent. “a somewhat luminous woodsy-oriental fragrance In which pine needles meld with vetiver, frankincense, fruit and spice notes” (osmoz : somewhat !)


English Breakfast by Mark Buxton

Someone more fashion-conscious than I (Sarah Palin, for instance) will know who started the fad for citrus+ginger/saffron+light woods+incense which has been sweeping Perfumistadom and which is at its best in Diptyque's L'eau de Tarocco. The opening of this has a wonderful, cool, rippling delicacy, a pure air which has you wanting to breathe deeper but which you somehow can't get more of than is already there. It then warms up and flattens out and becomes an elusive let-down. It follows a line quite like his mb01 for Biehl Parfumkunstpretentiousnonsense – a dive from high clear (bergamot, gardenia) into warm swamp (jasmine, sandalwood/cedar). After three tries, I reluctantly conclude that the beauty of the first ten minutes is Not Enough, and that this is a nothing with exquisite edges, more a Zen conundrum than a scent. The title is a joke, like Heston Blumenthal's bacon-and-egg ice-cream, but don't worry, you won't split your sides


Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel

Even the keenest admirer of Maurice Roucel and his magnolia accord, by which I mean me, can sometimes feel Hounded by Caramel, when encountering yet again this trick of floral sweetness. But when that moment of doubt about the Decline of the West into syrup has passed, this turns out ineffably frail and lovely, magnolia as the perfect nurse, slim and cool and soothing. There's a surprising earth to it too, like finding a potato in the sugar jar. The drydown is as dull as a plastic table-cloth. I delayed comparison with the 1993 edp until the next morning, and this was a good policy, because the edp is so much richer in aspects, it casts 2009 into a pale, mildly simpering shade.


parfums*PARFUMS Series 4 Cologne: Anbar by Comme des Garçons

It's so long since I smelled 4711, I can't tell whether this one really does bring back those blue and gold splendours or whether my brain is just taking another of its fantasy-shortcuts to the conclusion : ‘rank, over-emphatic cologne'. Odd too, that I've worn three mandarin scents in nearly as many days (Tarocco, Hespérides, and this one) and in what turns out to be a descending order of merit, for, though the CdG idea of making colognes with warmer components than usual triumphed in Vettiveru, the project clanks to an impasse here. This dinky orange is drowning in a recently disinfected bathroom bowl. The amber is pushed by the carnation and musk to a curdled opoponax and the citrus responds by turning hissy and cheap. Heartening, in a way, that something so misjudged could get past the corporate guard. Twee and repulsive, like a Komodo dragon in a pink cardie (you know those shocking pictures where people have dressed up their pets, well, like that). There's an aftertang of cola too. How odd, and yet faintly appealing in the way a squint can be attractive. ‘Anbar', so they say, is Arabic for amber; it's also a province of Iraq, where stuff went on you don't want to think about when dousing yourself of a morning.


Around Midnight by Mark Buxton

Comes on strong. Well, it is supposed to evoke a Parisian nightclub, though that category covers a multitude of sins and this will not work for those trying to revive memories of Le Trap (they cannot be many). Also : Thelonious Monk's classic is called ‘Round Midnight' and that would have been a better name, not only because it's correct. Oh the scent ? A small dab releases a hefty waft of essence de Buxton – grainy, ticklish with pepper, cloudy, resinous. This one is sweeter and more floral than the hot,dry blast of Ourzazate, more in the direction of his Vetiver for Le Labo but not quite all the way down that path (you don't end up smelling of pale toffee). Buxton is one of those artists who rings the changes on a limited set of notes, like Ivy Compton-Burnett or the Pet Shop Boys, so fans of his work like me will find this one comfortingly familiar, which is not how I like my Paris night-clubs.


L'Eau de Tarocco by Diptyque

The nose also composed Arpège pour Homme which is best as a cuddly shower-gel. This one is in a different league. Blood oranges at the start have a dizzy mix of zing and flesh which makes me want to get right up there to the terraces in sight of Etna where they grow. Of course, so aerated an opening can't last but what follows is good too, though not quite as good – a musky cushion of ginger, rose and saffron, soft but slightly rasping like a cat's tongue. For a cologne, the persistence is fine, though it stays close to the skin which is how I like 'em. The best of the four Pescheux colognes. “Tarocco oranges, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, rose, cedar, frankincense, saffron, Serenolide and Cosmone”


Ambre Topkapi / PB by MDCI

Appealing flowers and greenery above the caramel. There's a good pivoting in this between the syrupy and the verdant-ethereal, even if that pivot does all come out of a vat marked DIHYDROMYRCENOL. I love dihydromyrcenol and am going to form a league for its defence. Very much in the vein of Bourdon's Great Inca Priestesses, a fruitbasket carried on the head of someone drenched in fake tan, this one has a bit more spine because of the glints of ginger and spice. Grows more fey as it ages, the rascal. A masculine it is not. So ?


Outrageous by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

I hate to disagree with My Hero, Vibert, but this one is Weird and Wonderful. Caramelized drycleaned lychees is the overall impression. Or Bond No 9 Chinatown re-arranged with a squarer jaw. Also like a modernized L'instant pour homme. The drydown shapes up into a really erectile aroma, an electrified rosewood zither of ticklish wood. I wish the galangal kick of the opening, the Caipirinha, could stick around longer though the nose-dive into what follows is spectacular, with its lagoon of cachous. The Missoni whose gestalt it shares is airier and less insidiously plump, more spruce that's the word. Was reminded of Cipresso di Toscana and even more of Cool Water, which also has mint, orange blossom, and the ambery cedar at the last. Yes, OK, it's Radio City Music Hall not La Scala, but let's not get sniffy.


Manoumalia by LesNez

at the very first, there's a wave of cool sharpness, not quite citric (Tom on perfumesmellinthings says it's vetiver but it has nooo sparkle) and then immediately a swirl of kerosene and almonds, saffron, semolina, which soon turns waxy, wax of the tropical flower variety. It is a tuberose-like presence but not so near the edge of the offensive, and it's listed by LesNez as fagraea, though the fatty backing of tiare is also noticeable. For a while, it dallies backwards and forwards between menthol/rancid (spent safety matches) and a great cushion of ethereal cream (fumes of Strega on the pillow). Eventually it relapses into amber with a backbone, a pleasingly odd leather sundae (the perfumer notes that a leathery drydown is highly thought of by the natives whose culture of scent inspired her). “notes of fagraea, tiare, ylang ylang, sandalwood dust, vetiver and amber”.


S-ex by S-Perfume

I should know by now : never, never, ever order a sample of anything which Luca Turin has given five (or four) stars while mentioning sex somewhere in his review. Not unless you are interested in his psychobiography, that is. Others have noted how quickly its chill and bracing top-notes are overcome by smoky malted musk. In my case, it takes 10 seconds, and that counts as premature ejaculation in my book. The body of the scent is a waxen cistus, with hints of rancid butter, odd, spooky and not quite sickening. Actually, it has the head-turning, queasy-stomach effect of amyl nitrate thrust on you by someone you didn't really fancy in the first place and have now gone Right Off. But most of all, this is the smell of CB I Hate Perfume's M#3 November – pumpkin pie. Of course, calling it S-ex was a good idea, it got all the perfumistas whirring away, but S-plat or S-quidge would have been nearer the mark.


Blanc by Paul & Joe

silvery almonds, quinine and briar, chamfered musks and other touches of sweetness. Does not smell like a glass of milk, smells like a more fey L'Eau d'Hiver carrying lilies, or a glass of horchata de chufa. When the sparkly top dies back, it is, you know, a shade bland and BCBG [bon chic bon genre or ‘preppy' as they say in the USA]. Also has a doughy finger pointing in the direction of Bois Farine. Faintly cuddly, like the ghost of a hamster.


Rose de Siwa / FK2 by MDCI

SIWA is not, as you might imagine, a sinister organization devoted to the overthrow of decency but an Egyptian oasis of which M. Marchal has fond memories. Whatever. The scent is Turkish rose with the occasional backbite of sub-Nahéma lacquer. Irreproachable, i.e., null. How can someone be as accomplished as Francis K without accomplishing anything ?


Le Temps d'Une Fête by Nicolaï

Daddy, what is a big girl's blouse ?” “Here, Junior, let me spray this in your eyes and then you'll see.” Now, that daddy was a bad daddy, not only in his pedagogic methods and weakness for cruel puns but also in his inferior perfumistadom, for this fragrance is loaded with galbanum and therefore, like Insensé, its older, wiser and cheaper sister, is not gurly at all but rippling with taut sensitivity like my thighs. The first spray is a magic sparkly powder straight out of Disney but then it settles back into a buttered-up Chamade with a similar gestalt of dangerous honey. It comes to rest somewhere wonderful, moss with the sweetness of broom or gorse (but not exactly gorse with its coconut warmth). And finally, it is just the right scent for this precocious spring because it reeks of narcissus and narcissi are in season now, the wafty little darlings with their pert faces and dirty undertow. The best of this line.


Dior Homme Sport (original) by Christian Dior

a month or so away from Dior Homme restored my lurv for its cool slope, or plunging neckline, from lavender through iris to patchouli. Tailored, headlong and ACE. As for the flanker, there is only one word for it : Orangina. Don't get me wrong. I lurv Orangina with a pure and enduring lurv, some of my mouth's happiest moments.... etc etc. But to wrap DH in Orangina just flattens out the swoop of the scent, making it prepubescent where it had once been an Ideal early-twenties. Not disgusting but wrong. “ ginger, citron, bergamot, grapefruit, rosemary, lavender, elemi, cedar, vetiver and sandalwood”


Monocle Scent One : Hinoki by Comme des Garçons

cypress and cedar-shavings, obligatory swish of a thurible, acres of pine. Starts as it means to go on and on and on. I mean, I'm the first to defend the one-dimensional smell against the so-called ‘symphonic' perfume, but this is Beyond a Joke. Only when I'm in my grave do I want to smell so health-giving. Monocle, by the way, is a magazine for people too important to find things out for themselves and who need to be told that, for example, the most liveable cities are Copenhagen, Munich, Tokyo, Helsinki, Zurich, Vienna, in that order. But of course, you already knew that. The nose is not the ethereal Mark Buxton but the more cloddish Antoine Maisondieu.


Nuit de Cellophane by Serge Lutens

Nuit de Céllophane (2009) : plucky, noble little osmanthus threatened and devoured by a great python of a jasmine which has been gorging on marzipan. Some of the cola and berries from La Myrrhe; maybe a little embrittled plush from Daim Blond; tuberose throwing its floozy weight around as usual; the honey of Datura Noir. Dries back to a flabby version of Missoni. Compared to the scent itself, these notes are a model of coherence.


Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar by La Maison de la Vanille

heartening and chummy vanilla. I've no idea what is frosty about it, if they'd called it réchauffée it would have been nearer the mark and yet would have made no difference. Unless it has to do with crystals. Nutty like the Missoni edp, which could be the rose they share, though that seems unlikely. Delicious : the flowers do not press themselves on you and the patchouli and opoponax and tonka make a firm cushion. “Vanille Givrée des Antilles is named after a vanilla considered to be inferior in flavour to most others: it isn't much used in food. In perfumery, though, it has its place because of its floral aroma. ("Givrée" means "frosted", a reference to the crystals of pure vanillin which form on the outside of the vanilla pod after fermentation.)” (1000scents). So now you know.


Black by Bulgari

Sinister vanilla, a perfect combination : when you get really frightened, it turns into a Krispy Kreme and lets you tickle its tummy; when you relax, it shouts cruel remarks about your figure. It also has its airy-supercilious side, which comes from the whiffs of lapsang and rosewood, as if from a duchess's antique tea-caddy. Delicious and weird.


L'Eau Trois by Diptyque

Some English Benedictines gather round a campfire at night, they've been pruning for winter and have tidied the rockroses, cut back the bay and rosemary and other edgings of the path in the herb garden, and are rightly pleased with their work, but an enthusiastic younger brother keeps ruining everything by chucking on too much incense. Still they look upon him with love and kindliness, choking mildly, so goodwill is maintained.

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