parfums*PARFUMS Series 7 Sweet: Sticky Cake by Comme des Garçons

Sticky Cake is primarily a mix of bitter almond and iris. It starts out slightly frosty, with a pinch of anise to my nose, gradually becoming buttery, musky, and milky in the drydown. It doesn't smell like cake to me, or even unusually sweet by the standards of today's gourmands, but there is something slightly doughy and salty about it. If this was something edible, it would be almond shortbread with fleur de sel. The myrrh note is quite subtle, but noticeable as the base becomes increasingly resinous.

Though this radiates quite softly, the longevity is excellent on my skin.

A hidden gem, and one of the most underrated Comme des Garcons offerings.

(This review is for the 2017 reissue.)

Philosykos Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

Phylosykos in EDT is something of a beautiful apparition. A light green, sappy rain shower that fades to an almost-not-there creamy, wooden after-scent. Pleasant, but an ephemeral refreshment perfect for a summer "wake up" rather than a full day's wear.

The EDP is the more well-rounded scent. The top is identical, but as it fades it morphs to an accord somewhere between poplar sap, coconut water, and freshly torn fig leaves. It's a linear, almost minimalist accord, but its cheerful naturalism makes it forgivable in a way it wouldn't been had it been at all unbalanced. It lasts a good eight hours on me.

I love ripe figs and I must say my reference point seems different from most pefumers', as Philosykos is woody green rather than fruity.

( Thumbs up for the EDP; neutral for the EDT. )

Santal Noble by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

I had high hopes with this one, but whether it's me or the formulation, I'm underwhelmed.

Where as good-quality sandalwood oil lasts and lasts, the creamy sandalwood top here fades rather abruptly, morphing into a labdanum-meets-patchouli oriental that smells of its era ( think Jovan Sex Appeal For Men ) but is rather underpowered compared to its peers. Niche is overflowing with quality takes on those two notes, so I won't be running out to get Santal Noble any time soon...

Une Voix Noire by Serge Lutens

If you're looking for a gardenia, pass this right by. This smells nothing like real gardenia flowers.

Une Voix Noire smells somewhere in between Fleurs d'Oranger ( but less spicy ) and Honor Woman ( but less metallic ), is kissing cousins with Clandestine ( but less fruity ) and Memoir Woman ( but far less strong and rich ), and bears a palpable relation to Chanel's Gardenia ( but less fresh ) due to the grape-pop methyl anthranilite rendition of jasmine.

This is very easy wearing, and likely fans of the above fragrances will want to give this go at the jasmine meets orange blossom scent a try. That being said, there are a dozen fragrances ( and several in Serge's own line ) that do this same accord better and more distinctively.

Felanilla 21 by Parfumerie Generale

Saffron - Hay - Tobacco - Iris - Custard

This is the accord that floats up at me when I wear Felanilla, and it's a lush, enveloping take on these notes that's quite charming. Far less literal than most vanillas, I'd place this with the likes of Chergui, Eau de Beavx, and Back To Black: sweetened tobacco accords, polished to a fine, powdery sheen. I've tried many in this genre, and this was the "baby bear" fragrance that finally worked just right, and found a permanent home in my collection.

Lys Fume by Tom Ford

After much searching, I've found Lys Fume to be the very best lily fragrance on the market.

Lys Fume is centered around a big, bold stargazer lily accord; one that leaves all of the edges of this flower on. Indolic, chilly, peppery, bubble-gum like, and with an aggressive hot-cold quality with some kinship to Tubereuse Criminelle ( this is thicker, harder, and less sweet ). The drydown does reveal some musk and vanilla, but they're supporting players to the star lily accord.

Like many of the Fords, this is loud, blocky, and resolutely linear: finished but certainly unpolished in some sense. Lily is the just the flower for this treatment, and it carries it off excellently.

Rousse by Serge Lutens

Cinnamon tea with just a faint hint of milk. Very woody; dry, yet not harsh like CDG EDP; not candied like Diptyque's L'Eau; not dessert-like in the way Malle's Musc Ravageur and so many others are. One of the lightest, airiest cinnamon fragrances around ( there is some distant connection with Penhaligon's Elixir and Diptyque's regrettably named L'Eau de L'Eau, however ).

There are other notes that seem to reveal themselves on a heavy application: bitter orange, iris, and of course the inevitable Lutens-cedar note, with maybe the quietest squeak of neroli. These are mild accents, however, and this is one of the most minimalist Lutens around - quite the opposite of symphonic orientals like Arabie or Ambre Sultan.

Approach with a mood of introspection, and don't be afraid to overdose: it won't bite.

Rue des Lilas by Phaedon

Phaedon's lilac smells right between En Passant and L'Apres L'Ondee, but it's very dry-smelling, not dewy as those two are; almost ashen. It's a cold, almost saturnine lilac; simple and elegant in form, minimal in surrounding notes; opaque in texture, yet devoid of headiness.

Rue de Lilas is worthy fragrance for anyone seeking a quality lilac soliflore, though it may be a bit abstract for some.

Santal Majuscule by Serge Lutens

It took me an hour to place what the sweet-sour note in Santal Majuscule reminded me of: rosewater lassis. Tart, fatty yogurt meets rose, a very honeyed rose in this instance. The innate smokey-acrid note in the top of Australian sandalwood morphs into a dry cocoa note, or perhaps just the illusion of one, as Santal Majuscule never smells like chocolate despite a considerable background sweetness. There is a curious movement between the raspy-woody, tart-creamy, and rosy-honeyed qualities that never quite blends in the traditional sense - I find myself smelling wafts of different notes at different moments.

It's inevitable to bring up Lutens' other two sandalwoods, but they're different entities. If Santal Blanc ( a fragrance I smell no sandal in ) is creamy, and Santal de Mysore ( the most authentically sandalwood of the three ) is syrupy, Santal Majuscule is piquantly dusty in texture, reminiscent of summer in a dry, hot climate. I also feel it has more personality than either of the aforementioned two, and despite being very much in keeping with a classic Lutensian style, something new.

Douce Amère by Serge Lutens

Douce Amere is the Lutens I regret most being repatriated to Paris. While oddities like Miel de Bois make a lot of sense as Parisian exclusives ( mad, bad, and dangerous to smell ), the mannered delight that is Douce Amere is an easy-going charmer. I wonder why it didn't sell.

Douce Amere starts out with one of the best executed absinthe accords around. Light, sweet, and curiously "frosted", the impression is of anise and powdered sugar on my nose, like an alcoholic "Julius" style drink that's taken a turn for the green fairy. Rather than bitter-sweet, the anise makes it icy-sweet to my nose, tempering the sugar content with a wintry freshness.

The drydown is one of the most undefinable of the Lutens line. Warm, powdery, musky, something floral, something cedar - it's a Lutensiential, there's always going to be cedar - yet distinct identities remain hidden. Scrubbed-clean opoponax? Self-effacing lily? Inedible custard? Perhaps, but all masked in calm, sugared haze.

Hermèssence Vanille Galante by Hermès

The core of this fragrance is a balance between a banana-peel ylang-ylang, and a deep, hollow-smelling lily, both very streamlined and meditative. However, what makes this fragrance startling is a very distinct umami quality: a salty-savory note that does the unthinkable and puts fish in perfume. ( Imagine dabbing on some Three Crabs fish sauce, and you're there. ) To my nose this is much more tangible than the "caviar" note that's supposed to be in Womanity; both more subtle, and more true to the source.

The aquatic-floriental contrast is a distant cousin to Black Orchid; the lily is a kissing-cousin of the rather more austere ones from Donna Karan's Gold. Yet, it is pretty much an island to itself: glassy-smooth, fleshy-tropical, darkly transparent. And much to my own surprise, my favorite of the Hermessence line.

The one thing I still don't smell is vanilla. It may be there, but either it's too abstract a construction for my nose to smell the bean, or it's too well hidden under ylang, lilies, and the bathypelagic bouquet. Either way, don't come here seeking a rival to other niche vanillas...

M/Mink by Byredo

People talk about happy scents, melancholic scents, sexy scents - M/Mink is about fear. Not that it smells of anything scary that's nameable, but it conjures up the alertness, adrenaline, and vague unease each time I smell it, my main reason in avoiding buying an otherwise daring and attention-grabbing scent.

M/Mink smells of synthetic things. I couldn't name a note, though that fierce top is almost like scotch pine burnt then left to cool. The honeyed drydown is neither thick and natural nor brightly candied, just a warm glimmering from behind. The bleak top fades over time, becoming more and more about frankincense, but the tension is never lost in the growing resinous accord.

On my list of fragrances everyone should smell once.

Bas de Soie by Serge Lutens

Bas de Soie is easily the coldest, stoniest fragrance in the whole line. Serge Lutens aesthetic seems so well co-opted by the world of niche that it's rather understandable that he seems to have undergone a rebellion against his own aesthetic in recent years.

To say this is a fragrance of hyacinth and iris is to say Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is a picture of a some of ladies hanging out. Accurate, but missing the point somewhat. Both notes are distorted here to reveal their most angular side: iris is whittled to a metallic sheen of starch and soap, hyacinth has its spice removed and its more bodily side emphasized ( together, I'm reminded of well-used bath-water ). The drydown has a hint of myrrh, smelling in this context like, of all things, watermelon juice.

While the top notes have a bitter soapy punch of some force, it settles down into a rather softer, more transparent accord. It is mercurial and at times smells inane, almost functional, and at other times almost unpleasantly Avante Garde ( the flesh-meets-steel of Secretions Magnifique is indeed a cousin ), each sniff giving a slightly different impression.

Conceptually brilliant; variably wearable. Is that your fairy-godmother, or a skeletal hand on your shoulder?

Honour Woman by Amouage

Honor Woman is like a concert that's ruined by one very loud, annoying audience member.

Somewhere in here is a great Amouage magnolia floral, but after the first couple minutes an accord that smells like applesauce from a rusty tin takes over and outlasts and out-shouts every member of the Amouagerade orchestra. After a while I can barely get anything else.

This could have been great. It isn't.

Les Nombres d'Or : Tubéreuse by Mona di Orio

The top notes come on aldehydic, and almost chalky. Gradually it subsides into a soft but subtle and remarkably dry accord of tuberose, vetiver, and the least sweet coconut I've ever encountered ( quite a world away from Carnal Flower ).

The sillage on this is quite remarkable to my nose: it is beautifully light and diffuse, like an eau de toilette, yet it endures like a heavier eau de parfum. It's the most airy tuberose encountered, yet it lasts. Apollonian tuberose, painted with watercolor.

Though I'm a wear-what-you-want, when-you-want type, if you love tuberose and need a classy tuberose soliflore for work that's subtle yet lasts, get this.

Yuzu Fou by Parfum d'Empire

A surprisingly lively take on the citrus cologne theme! Lemon rind and mint in a green, chilly, and ( obviously ) fresh blast with a distinct green accord holding it together.

It reminds me a bit of the mint lemonade popular in Egypt. And, given how abruptly cooling this scent smells, I wish I'd had Yuzu Fou there!

Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Well there's one thing most of the lovers and haters can agree on: this ain't no lady!

How much you enjoy Portrait of a Lady will largely depend on how much a certain style of Middle Eastern perfumery agrees with you, namely rosy oud blends that can cost you anywhere from a fortune to a few cents, and are popular everywhere in the Mid-East. It's a style of perfume popularized among the western perfumista set by Montale, and in recent years is just everywhere.

I can't say this is anywhere close to my favorite rendition on the theme of oud-rose-patchouli, a combination I'm not terribly enamored with at the start. It is, however, distinctly the most loud and most feral. This even leaves fellow niche monoliths like Black Aoud in the dust in terms of brute force, and only a tiny spritz seemed to choke out the air around me and entomb me in hefty rose, dusty oud, and a fatty, rough-textured patchouli.

I kept an open mind, but frankly: I hated it. I cannot in the least say, however, that it's a bad deal. This is power in a bottle. A bottle could last you years ( though it just may age you prematurely... )

Rose Absolue by Annick Goutal

A weak, one-note, overly sudsy rosewater fragrance. I simply do not understand the love for this - not only is it bad, it's terribly overpriced for what it delivers.

Memoir Woman by Amouage

Memoir Woman smells like several of the louder, cruder jasmines got together, smoked a lot of cigarettes, drank a lot of wine, and passed out on the bar-room floor. The top notes are a Glasgow kiss of the most grape-y jasmine possible with a neon-lit tuberose giving her added heft. If you imagine Dior's Poison and Serge Lutens' Cedre splashed on simultaneously you're half-way there, but soon enough a curious burnt tobacco smell comes along, not unlike the accord in ELDO's Jasmine Et Cigarette mixed with stewed fruit in the style of Bhiel's AL02 . As it dries down it becomes quite smoky, woody and resinous, but the florals persist to the last whiff.I'm really not one to turn down a sledgehammer jasmine, but I feel Amouage can do better, and has done better in fragrances like Jubilation 25 and Ubar. It's really strange how a fragrance can use so many of my favorite notes and reference so many of my favorite fragrances, yet disappoint me, but Memoir Woman does. Perhaps it's because I'm too well aware of my other options in this genre.

The Smell of Weather Turning by Gorilla Perfume [Lush]

Rosewood and mint and something... smoky, leathery, and maybe just a little bit indolic? I really can't stand this accord. It reminds me of ELDO's Charogne meet's Tauer's Lonestar Memories; like someone with bad breath chewed spearmint gum and spit it out onto a dirty bar floor covered in sawdust. It's not dirty per se, it's just that the notes themselves lend themselves to some very negative assocations. This truly makes me wretch; I feel queasy trying to inhale and describe it, in a way not too far off the way the infamous Secretions Magnifique effects me. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so strong and piercingly sweet in addition to smelling so %#@! weird.

No. 22 Parfum by Chanel

The top notes are extremely aldehydic here; fizzy, sharp, and astringent. If you know aldehydes, you know the drill, and this is about as much an aldehyde bomb as you'll find this side of White Linen. In fact, in more than one way it resembles a hybrid between White Linen and No. 5 in its trajectory from bubbly top notes through floral heart to sudsy base.The florals here are less pronounced than in Chanel No. 5, and slightly more titled towards rose, but all in all quite similar. In the base they become soapy, and the dry powderiness here really rather resembles Caron's Or Et Noir parfum in its modern incarnation.No 5, Eau Premier, and No. 22 are their own little family among the Chanels, but to my nose, No. 22 has aged the least well of the three. I've smelled too many drastic reformulations among the Chanel line to imagine I'm smelling anything like Ernest Beaux's creation of nine decades ago, but judging on the current formulation alone, this is a somewhat strident and disjointed fragrance, lacking the balance and interest of the better releases by Chanel.

No. 18 Eau de Toilette by Chanel

Somehow I was expecting... more, a lot more, from a Chanel Exclusif. I mostly smell an aldehydic, tart, and daintily sweet rose note that's almost uncannily like Gres Cabaret stripped down and brushed lightly with ambrette.If you love it, go for it, but you could do yourself a favor by sampling the aforementioned Gres fragrance first.

The Infidels by Agonist

I'll give it to The Infidels - it's not something I've smelled before. I find the accord a fairly linear thing, a big, urinous powder-puff the like of which owes something to Kouros in its animalic qualities, but here its something greener; namely, it's blackcurrant bud, nestled on a soft, powdery base. If, like me, you have a high tolerance for "weird" in your fragrance, you just may find this skanky-sour/pretty-powdery combination entertaining. I do, I'm left wishing there was more to it after the first hour or so.Is it worth the price? Not for me. Besides, the "glass art" it comes on looks like a red delicious that's happy to see me - not something I want as the prize piece in my fragrance collection.

Like This / Tilda Swinton Like This by Etat Libre d'Orange

What's this - ELDO does Serge Lutens? Well, it sure smells like one, specifically Five O'Clock Au Gingembre meets Fille En Aiguilles, minus the pine.Never mind that, though; this is a great fragrance in its own right.I don't smell any of fleshy-farty odor of a newly carved pumpkin ( which I'm grateful for ), but instead a top note that smells for all the world of ginger and brown sugar. It's neither the bright freshly sliced note nor is it the powdery kind. Of all the ginger-flavored things I can reference, it's closest to smell of the syrup one occasionally finds candied ginger preserved in, if you mixed that half-and-half with molasses.If all this sounds oppressively sugary, it's not, as the sweetness is restrained by an appealing booziness in the top notes and towards the base, a fade to immortelle and mild-mannered vetiver. Also, for a rich oriental, it's rather streamlined in feel, like the rough edges have been sanded off.Quite possibly the best thing ELDO's released so far.

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