Cuir Pleine Fleur / Fine Leather by Heeley

One of my favourite leather fragrances, but a ‘green/yellow' floral leather rather than a dark animal-y leather. I definitely get a leather that's got a clean fresh hay scent, with grass and something that smells a bit like daisies. For me this is very much a daytime scent, for less warm summer or autumn days, and perhaps even for when it's raining and you want to remind yourself of a summer late-afternoon in a field, relaxing in the last of the sun, in a fleece-lined brown leather jacket. It's more niche than versatile but a lovely fragrance to have for the occasions you want to use it.

Eau des Baux by L'Occitane

Spicy woody vanilla. No tobacco and no worse for it. It's warm, spicy and sensual but, whereas some vanilla fragrances can get quite sweet and sickly, this one's dry, not over powering and more in balance with the woods. It might even be a bit too dry for my nose but it's still very good especially for colder months. The slightly herbal bites, cypress and incense make it really quite interesting and different.

Sel Marin by Heeley

This is my number one fragrance for high-heat summer when anything even slightly sweet becomes cloying and sickly. I remember respraying on a packed train home in the height of last summer (to hide the fug of a carriage-full of hot sweaty people) and was immediately taken to the end of a jetty surrounded by a salty breeze, sea spray and the faintest twist of citrus-y fresh seaweed. Like a breath of fresh sea air!

Dzing! by L'Artisan Parfumeur

There's a great Katie Puckrik review of this likening it to a circus and, wow - it really does smells of leather and circus animals! I don't get much sweetness, toffee or woods - just large musky animals with a slightly fecal, stale litter-tray / sawdust twist. To me it's less “big-top” and more like the cages out the back. It's incredible how evocative it is (and for some reason I do keep wanting to smell it again) but it's not a pleasant or particularly wearable fragrance.

Méchant Loup by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Reading the notes I thought this was going to be a really eccentric fragrance of sweet honey, nuts and radix, that was either going to be a smash-hit of inspiration or really awful. It's actually neither. It opens quite softly, with a delicate fusion of honey with a hint of licorice, cedar and the faintest hint of pine straw. There's also something ever so slightly soapy which gives the fragrance a much ‘cleaner' vibe than I expected - it's definitely a forest in the morning after a cold night, with the sun just starting to warm things up and tease out all the different smells all at the same time. It's more of an ambiance. There are no strong individual notes, no collisions of big flavours. There's nothing particularly animalic. In short, I think the “big bad wolf” must have been out the day they collected the notes for this fragrance.

It's actually quite pleasant and almost fougere-like. As it dries down, it's got the same green+yellow+brown vibe but instead of “clean” it becomes ever so slightly warmer and more mellow, like a sort of heavily diluted Cuir Pleine Fleur without the leather. There's still no wolf to be found.

It's difficult to know what this fragrance is for or when to wear it. I like it and it's intriguing enough that I'm going to try it again, perhaps with a heavier application to see if I can get more out of it and maybe it will show s different side to itself in a different season. We'll see...

L'Occitan by L'Occitane

I was gifted the shower gel version of this and loved it, so bought the EDT. The EDT has a sharper More bitter opening but it mellows down eventually. Alit if lavender fragrances are just that i.e. just lavender that can come across as a bit like air freshener, but the burnt woods and pepper in this give it a depth and make it a more subtle, complex and wearable accord.

I find it works well in Spring and Autumn when heavy winter fragrances are too much, and summer scents lack depth. All in all it's a clean and classy office-safe scent that's versatile enough to use without too much thought.

Herod by Parfums de Marly

This is a gorgeous woodsy vanilla. The tobacco is less full-on than Tobacco Vanille - TV is a rich spicy vanilla pipe tobacco but Herod is at another level in terms of interest and complexity with the floral notes. Plus, the tobacco is less old-man-ish and intense, and more subtle. Herod is expensive but it's an outstanding winter scent - it's interesting enough to wear several days in a row, but not so over powering you get overwhelmed and sick of it. Definitely one of my all time favourites and a top ten.

Blacks Club Leather by Shay & Blue

This was the fragrance that first got me on to S&B - some leather fragrances can be very shout-y and animal-y (cuir d'arabie, tuscan leather, cuir de russie) whereas this is a more subtle, classy and practical/versatile scent - like a gently perfumed leather chair that can suit formality or more relaxed situations, and be unique without being ostentatious. If the Blacks Club itself (which apparently inspired this fragrance) is as elegant and interesting as the fragrance it could well be worth a visit!

Blood Oranges by Shay & Blue

This is scent really needs high heat to come alive. In colder weather it's too thin and uninteresting (like watered-down fanta) but becomes a super-refreshing spritz scent when it gets really hot (and stronger more complex fragrances become oppressive). Good to have in the collection for summer holidays but a bit boring for everyday use.

Bright Neroli by Ferrari

Ok, so this is nothing like TFNeroli Portofino - not even close. The neroli isn't nearly as intense or rich, and it lacks the same depth and complexity.

But now that's out of the way, if you're after a light citrus freshly floral for the summer, that you can wear every day without breaking the bank then this is pretty perfect. It's not as soapy as penhaligons Castile. It's exactly was it says - clean, bright and fresh.

Judge it on its own merits, not on hype train comparisons to other things in different leagues.

Costa Azzurra by Tom Ford

Like the sun sparkling off one of the Italian lakes, with the faintest smell of mountain herbs in the background. It's classy and gentle enough for the office and summer weekends, and works for evenings too (moonlight reflecting off the Italian lakes). It's such a subtle fragrance that sings different notes in different situations - refreshing during the day and slightly sweeter at night. It's versatile but stands out from the designer crowd like a million dollars. As a spring/summer all-rounder I've not found anything that beats it. Shame it's apparently discontinued now, so I'm stocking up!

Neroli Portofino Forte by Tom Ford

I totally love this. The only problem is it's expensive. Really expensive. It's very versatile - light enough for the summer days in jeans and a white linen shirt or t-shirt, classy and deep enough for something formal in the evening. Beautifully floral but balanced with leather, herbs and woods to make it more than wearable for men. To my nose, it's in the same vein as Habit rouge and Acqua Colonia Essenza, but brighter and a bit less stuffy. It smells like the sun bouncing off the ripples on Lake Garda in a light breeze. It's 4711 that lasts all day and well into the night.

Colonia Essenza by Acqua di Parma

A solid cologne that's ideal for office and formal scenarios, and also works well in summer casual setting - it lacks the richness and depth (leatheryness) of Neroli Portofino Forte, but more soapy and understated/wearable day in day out. And considerably less expensive. Smells very similar to penhaligons Castile to me ie almost identical.

Tea for Two by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Not a fresh clean tea, nor particularly smokey - think Whittards Spice Imperial - bitter dried spiced citrus peel. Not offensive, but not my cup of tea.

Noir Exquis by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Definitely get nutty maple syrup combined with something very slightly powdery - a bit like a sweeter Valentino uomo intense. It's pretty linear in the dry down and becomes a bit sickly after a few hours without anything smokey or spicy to counterbalance the sweetness. For me, it's not fresh or clean enough for the daytime (even a Sunday) and not dark enough for night. It's like eating delicious glazed nuts and waffles but for 8 hours which is and perhaps just not my thing.

Oud Alif by Shay & Blue

This fragrance is amazing - definitely in my top ten and a weekend favourite outside of hot weather months. It opens with almost an incense and gradually dries down to delicate, slightly smokey chocolate. I love how it develops throughout the day from a little bit rugged to something perfect for going to bed with - the edges become smooth and it becomes rich and sweet, but with enough of the earlier notes left to keep it balanced, interesting and not too cloying. It's got real depth and character, and unique/original too.

Knize Ten by Knize

Not sure why anyone would wear this? It's dirty and not in a good way. Like an ashtray combined with a leather taxi seat combined with unwashed trousers. I heard it once described as like the inside of a New York taxi at the end of a long shift which is 100% right on the money. Not for me.

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