Way Off Scenter

21 Conduit St by Jovoy

(Genre: Fougere/Woods)

Jovoy's add copy for 21 Conduit Street goes on at some length about England and a modern take on lavender, but anyone expecting another MEM or a new Caron Pour un Homme is going to be sorely disappointed. This stuff smells fougere-ish to me, and there's certainly some lavender in there, but it's hardly the star player, at least to my untrained nose. On paper, 21 Conduit Street is dominated by a big, harsh woody amber, though that's mercifully less obvious on my skin.

After the obligatory citrus top note, 21 Conduit Street settles into a conventional bergamot/lavender/coumarin fougere accord, made “contemporary” by a helping of ambroxan and that assertive woody amber (listed, in case you missed the point, as “modern woods” in the Jovoy pyramid). While there's no mention of it in Jovoy's advertised pyramid, I do detect a smattering of vetiver lain over the fougere foundation. Besides that, I get a fleeting hint of tart rhubarb, but honestly speaking, not much else. It certainly doesn't offend, but then it does not inspire, either.

I give this scent credit for working far better on my skin than on the smelling strip, but I can't say I'd ever seek it out to wear again. If it's lavender I want, I'll turn to stalwarts like Pour un Homme and Jicky, or to Antonio Gardoni's magisterial MEM, thank you.

Gravitas pour Homme by Naughton & Wilson

(Genre: Fougere)

Whoever decided to christen this routine and unmistakably lightweight modern fougere “Gravitas” has either a problem with Latin or a very fine sense of humor. What I smell straight out of the bottle is a minor variation on the familiar post-Cool Water/Green Irish Tweed ambroxan-flavored fougere genre, distinguished by, if anything, a relatively large dose of “laundry detergent” white musk and a higher price point than most. Gravitas disappoints me, coming from the nose John Stephen, who once composed the much more memorable Citrus Paradisi, Neroli, and Cuba for Czech & Speake.

The fine, neo-Bauhaus oriented German manufacture Nomos once released, to commemorate the toppling of the Berlin wall in 1989 (incidentally, the year after Cool Water appeared), a limited-edition series of twenty watches, each one with its minimalist dial in a slightly different shade of gray. The sort of anonymous fougere Gravitas exemplifies reminds me of those watches: only distinguishable from one another if viewed together, and even then requiring a discerning eye.

Unlike the Nomos “Orion 1989” commemorative watch series, there appears to be no limit to these fragrances. In fact, I presume they will keep coming, in their various price brackets, until people get bored and stop buying them. For anyone who wants to pay this sort of price for a contemporary take on the classic fougere, I'd sooner recommend Dusita's Issara or Parfums MDCI's Le Barbier de Tanger.

LiTA by Bogue Profumo

(Genre: Woody Oriental)

LiTA (sic) leaps off of my skin with the kind of thunderous, skip-to-the-base-notes fusillade familiar to admirers of Josh Lobb's Slumberhouse scents. Nonetheless, Antonio Gardoni's fingerprints are all over it: here are the mysterious and somehow archaic-smelling resins from Cologne Reloaded and the tuberose accord that hovers over MAAI; there the creosote of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and, perhaps most conspicuously, the dense burnt chocolate accord so central to his collaboration with Bruno Fazzolari, Cadavre Exquis. What immediately distinguishes LiTA, though, is a gargantuan civet that blares above the rest of this dense and busy composition like a bugle blast. Mind you, it's not as if Gardoni hasn't employed civet before, but in none of his previous compositions do I recall it being under so intense a spotlight.

I can't accurately describe LiTA as a gourmand. However strong the reminiscence of chocolate, the dried fruit accord (I think Luca Turin may have once referred to it as “raisins”) from Cadavre Exquis is noticeably absent, and all that foetid civet ensures that LiTA smells anything but edible. In case you haven't yet gleaned, this fragrance is far from shy. Wearing LiTA may entail the kind of confidence required for big old vintage “powerhouse” fragrances, or for more modern examples, the bolder, early Serge Lutens orientals or (again) Josh Lobb's Norne, Jeke, or Ore. (The latter of which I might be very vaguely reminded of when wearing LiTA.)

A thumbs-up, then, for a bold, and perversely fun scent – as so many of Gardoni's are – but I'm honestly not sure how many will find it wearable. If you do dare take LiTA out for a spin in public, be assured: you will be noticed.

Moonlight in Chiangmai by Parfums Dusita

(Genre: Floral Oriental)

On first acquaintance, Moonlight in Chiangmai strikes me as one of the less distinctive Dusita compositions I've experienced. Whether I've liked them or not, most previous Dusita compositions, including Oudh Infini, Mélodie de l'Amour, Erawan, Le Sillage Blanc, and Issara, have left me with a strong impression. This one, along with La Douceur de Siam, Le Pavillion d'Or, and Fleur de Lalita, doesn't really speak to me.

After a pleasantly holographic (though not necessarily identifiable as “yuzu,”) citrus top note, what I smell for the most part is a smooth and sanitized fruits-and-white flowers accord, decorated with the listed nutmeg note and underpinned by sweet benzoin. Any of the vetiver and synthetic woody base notes that I catch on paper disappear on my skin – at least until the far drydown, where they emerge as distant, muted, and scratchy, as if played on an old and badly-worn LP. Noticeably absent to my nose are any of the indolic accents common to many jasmine-centered fragrances. Hence, perhaps, the overall “clean” and unprovocative olfactory profile.

Not that I have any expectation that a fragrance reflect its name, but I find nothing that's particularly nocturnal or suggestive of moonlight here. Moonlight in Chiangmai may hold some appeal for those who seek a relatively bright, transparent, sweet white-floral oriental and are averse to indole, but I fear I'll have forgotten what it smells like by tomorrow.

Hyrax by Zoologist Perfumes

Genre: Leather

Given that The Zoologist's Civet didn't smell all that much of civet to me, I was surprised to find the castoreum-like, tarry-animalic pungency of hyraceum conspicuously present in Hyrax. I would describe Hyrax as a potent and assertively “butch” animalic leather fragrance with a decidedly retro cast.

I somehow feel as if I should like this fragrance more than I do, as dark, animalic leather scents normally appeal to me. However, the “throwback” element on display in Hyrax leaves me with the impression that, while aiming at “black leather jacket and studded belt,” the composition trips over “dirty old man.” Hyrax misses the élan exhibited by, say, Masque Milano's Montecristo or Byredo's Le Botte, and winds up smelling a bit crude to me after an hour or two's wear. Oh, and if it's the titular ingredient you're after, I'd recommend Liz Moore's stupendously skanky Salome for a more interesting use of hyraceum.

Naja by Vero Profumo

Genre: You tell me (Incandescent Tobacco?)

The utterly novel accord of lime blossom (linden, tillieul), osmanthus, and tobacco Vero Kern explores in Naja launches tobacco into such an unfamiliar orbit, I don't even know how to classify the scent. It is utterly brilliant, and it is like nothing else I have smelled.

Tobacco in fine fragrance typically appears in dark leathery or oriental contexts: think Fumerie Turque, Baque, or Havana. Not here. The ineffable lightness of linden blossom and osmanthus pump Naja's tobacco full of helium and send it floating off into the clear blue sky in a manner I would not have thought possible. You may not like it, but you ought to smell it at least once, just to know that such a thing can actually be done.

Russian Musk by Areej le Doré

Genre: Oriental/Chypre

I've said elsewhere that I enjoy Russian Adam's fragrances more for their exquisite content than for their composition, per se, and Russian Musk is no exception. In terms of structure, there is nothing here that strikes me as especially novel or intriguing. Indeed, the style seems so determinedly retro to me that I might not be able to distinguish Russian Musk amidst a lineup of vintage early 20th century orientals preserved in good condition.

Given what goes into this stuff, that still leaves plenty to enjoy. Russian Adam's art seems to me less in combining than extracting superb materials, and I enjoy his work to the degree that the compositions do not get in the way of their contents. Russian Musk is a dense, complex fragrance, but not so much so that the ingredients are muted or muddled in their expression. I have a sense that this is what a solid, if “ordinary” fragrance might have smelled like in the days when things like natural deer musk, floral extracts, and real ambergris were the common currency of perfumery. I'll never know, but I'll enjoy Russian Musk when I'm in the mood for nostalgia.

Fantastic and very extended drydown, by the way…

MEM by Bogue Profumo

Genre: Fougère

Words fail.

Antonio Gardoni has taken what smelled to me like a shot at a fougère before (O/E, to be precise), but this is something else entirely. To say that MEM is about lavender is a bit like saying that Picasso's Guernica is a picture of a bull. To belabor the metaphor, Gardoni, true architect that he is, deconstructs and reassembles the lavender in MEM to reveal an entirely new, and heretofore unimagined form.

In a pathetically inadequate and incomplete attempt at analysis, I'll venture that part of Gardoni's genius here was to pull hard on a couple of lavender's loose strands. As Vero Kern had once before with her magnificent Kiki, Gardoni accentuates the weird, carmel-like facet that emerges in some lavender materials. Yet at the same time, he also highlights the bitter edge that makes lavender so thoroughly unpalatable when, in the now-fashionable manner, it is baked into shortbread cookies. (Sorry, but I'd rather eat ashes.) This, among many other things, takes place over the kind of deeply saturated medicinal/animalic background that has become a Gardoni trademark (q.v. MAAI, Gardelia, or Aeon 001.)

I will stop now, because I can't begin to do MEM justice, but know that it's scents like this that restore my faith in olfactory creativity.

Indolis by Areej le Doré

Genre: Floral

For me, Areej le Doré fragrances have largely been about enjoying beautiful raw materials, as opposed to compositional interest, and Indolis is a good case in point. I see this as a lovely white flower accord, set off by a potent, bitter green note that just manages to keep the whole construct from teetering over the brink of overly sweet. And that's it. No matter how complex the pyramid, the end result here smells relatively simple. Lush, yes, but neither complicated nor in any way particularly original. To put it another way, the apparent olfactory depth and the considerable attraction that Indolis holds for me stem from the materials themselves, rather than the manner in which they are used. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As with cuisine, there is much to be said for selecting fine ingredients, and then allowing them to speak for themselves.

(As an aside, I don't smell much obvious indole here. Not, at least, in the manner of Lush's Lust or Serge Lutens's Fleur d'Oranger.)

Aeon 001 by Aeon Perfume

Genre: Woods

Does for vetiver what Antonio Gardoni's more recent MEM has done for lavender: vetiver from another planet. I honestly can't remember whether I'd guessed that Aeon 001 was Gardoni's work prior to the big reveal* on Luca Turin's defunct blog, but in retrospect, it should have been obvious. A pungent, licorice-leaning vetiver and a boatload of cypriol sit atop the kind of simultaneously medieval-medicinal/animalic accord that has become Gardoni's calling card. (See MAAI, MEM, Cologne Reloaded, or Gardelia for examples.) If there were ever any doubt as to whether anything new or distinctive could be done with vetiver, this ought to dispel it. There is a weird compelling/repellent tension in Aeon 001's structure that keeps me coming back to it again and again. While I don't find it all that easy to wear, I can't seem to keep myself from trying.

*The schtick behind Aeon Perfumes is that they won't reveal the nose behind each limited edition scent until the entire stock sells out. Silly, if you ask me, but I suppose everybody needs a gimmick these days.

Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Genre: Woods

Well, this is odd.

I must be anosmic to most of what's in here, because all I can smell is an enormous blast of undiluted Ambroxan. Take the synthetic "ambergris" base note from Green Irish Tweed, amplify it by the power of ten, and that's what I get from Baccarat Rouge. The extrait smells the same to me, though it might wear slightly closer to the skin. I'm honestly not sure what to think…

Dryad by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Genre: Green Chypre

I have no idea how Liz Moores got around the strictures on oakmoss to compose Dryad, but however she did it, it's a work of genius. This perfectly-named fragrance is a big, no-holds-barred green chypre that stands in a direct line of descent from Y, Givenchy III, and Chanel No. 19. Which is not to say that Dryad smells fusty or old-fashioned. Shimmering, ever-so-slightly dissonant green notes, the olfactory equivalent of those glittering piano figures in some of Debussy's songs, lend Dryad a flavor that's at once archaic and profoundly contemporary. (An effect that Antonio Gardoni and Vero Kern have also achieved, albeit though entirely different means.) I'd set this next to Vero Kern's delightful Mito as a fine example of what can still be done within the once-abandoned green chypre style. Mo(o)re, please!

Fath's Essentials : Green Water by Jacques Fath

Genre: Edwards says Fougère, I say Citrus (you say “po-TAH-toh”)

This is not your father's (or mother's) Green Water. I remember the skimpy, impoverished, green chemical compound that used to go by this name, and this is NOT it. In fact, this delightful reissue is the work of no lesser light than Cecile Zarokian, and stands as a fine testament to her talent.

The green juice in this bottle smells exactly like it looks: a brisk, yet nuanced eau de Cologne-type formula invigorated by a marvelously savory tarragon and mint top note and extended in the base by a lovely neroli. “Extended” must be taken in context here - the new Green Water is good for about two hours, max. (There's a reason they're selling the stuff in a ten gallon can.) As much as some may be put off by the limited lasting power, I have to wonder how much of this scent's natural-smelling appeal would have been sacrificed to the kind of clean synthetic musks that might have increased its tenacity. Me, I'll go with Zarokian's call, and re-apply liberally.

Gardelia by Bogue Profumo

Genre: Floral/Chypre

Anyone expecting a gardenia fragrance out of this is going to be mighty disappointed. (See Jovoy's Gardez-Moi or Dusita's Melodie de l'Amour instead.) In fact, I think Antonio Gardoni did disservice to himself and to this fragrance by mentioning gardenia in the press materials. Dismiss any thought of gardenia, and you can enjoy this scent as a big, dense, abstract white flower bouquet set atop the kind of weirdly medicinal-yet-animalic foundation that Gardoni has come to specialize in.

To some extent, this smells to me like an exploration of the same territory where Gardoni unearthed MAAI. There are references aplenty to the great old-school chypres, but with a sharply-honed edge that leaves the composition smelling unmistakably modern. Gardelia is noticeably cleaner-smelling than MAAI, if no less weighty, and more obviously floral, too boot, but the family resemblance can't be denied. This stuff tends to wear me more than I wear it, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Iris Cendré by Naomi Goodsir

Genre: Floral

“Rooty” and “doughy” have been used before to describe this scent, and I concur. This is a very poised, rounded iris composition, redeemed from being overly powdery-pretty by (yes,) a peculiar ashy note, which manages to provide just enough edge to make things feel both modern and interesting.

A little bit of leather in the background reminds me ever so slightly of Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's marvelous Iris Bleu Gris, but the two scents otherwise travel in very different directions. Whereas Iris Bleu Gris uses leather chypre cues to evoke a kind of gentlemen's club sophistication, Iris Cendré feels comparatively streamlined and utterly nostalgia-free. In short, an iris that doesn't feel redundant in an increasingly crowded field.

Mélodie de L'Amour by Parfums Dusita

Genre: Floral

Some are smelling jasmine here, some tuberose. Me, I smell both, but more than either, I smell gardenia. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I get that inimitable green/mushroom edge whenever I wear Melodie de l'Amour, and I'm happy to greet it every time.

What all, I believe, might agree upon is that this is a plush white flower composition of exceptional grace, saved from being overly precious by a judicious touch of crispy green. As much as I love my Carnal Flower (another green-tinged white flower offering), Ropion's big tuberose can smell decidedly indelicate next to this. To my nose, Melodie de l'Amour is ineffably lovely, and certainly represents one of my favorite floral releases in recent memory.

Majan Attar by Amouage

Genre: Woods

I could describe Majan pretty much as a straightforward dry rose and sandalwood attar, but that would hardly do it justice. The sandalwood here smells remarkably like the real thing, which is to say bewitchingly complex and chameleonic: at once creamy and dry, plush and austere, sweet and savory. One could argue that a high grade Mysore sandalwood oil would serve as well, but I'll keep my itsy, bitsy bottle of Majan for whenever I want to remind myself just how good sandalwood can smell.

O/E by Bogue Profumo

Genre: Citrus/Fougère

O/E does not seem to have been received quite so rapturously as Cologne Reloaded and MAAI were before it, and I must admit there's something challenging going on here - a kind of deliberate dissonance that's not going to suit every taste.

Antonio Gardoni seems quite fond of a very distinctive and peculiar accord that paradoxically weds a medicinal, antique apothecary element to a furry animalic note. The idea may have first emerged with Cologne Reloaded, and was expanded upon in MAAI, Gardelia, and MEM. In O/E, Gardoni accompanies the animal/apothecary accord with a bright citrus and a weird, bitter, metallic note that I can't begin to identify. The effect is decidedly raspy – to some perhaps even nails-on-a-blackboard disturbing – especially for the first ten minutes or so on the skin.

However, I find that with patience, O/E seems to find its footing, and what started out as grating discord settles into an intriguing olfactory chiaroscuro effect, the likes of which I've experienced in certain more traditionally composed fougères and citrus chypres. Certainly not for every taste, but interesting enough to hold my attention.

Russian Oud by Areej le Doré

Genre: Woody Oriental

There's a lot of talk of chocolate when describing Russian Oud, but that's not primarily what I'm getting. What I smell here is a big, complicated animalic oud (real, for a change,) wed to a deep, sweet, warm amber with a huge labdanum (or is that guggul?) note that persists through the long and lovely drydown. And when I say “long,” I mean LOOOOOOONG. This stuff hangs on as a skin scent for as much as 24 hours after application, for those to whom it matters.

Russian Adam appears to be a master at extracting marvelous raw materials, and when he sets them in relatively straightforward compositions, such as this one, they can glow in a most gratifying manner. This fragrance feels awfully nice in contrast to the tidal wave of predictable rose and synthetic “oud” compositions that have swamped the current market.

Tahani Attar by Amouage

Genre: Woody Oriental

As an attar perhaps ought to be, Tahani is a relatively simple combination of highly complex ingredients. In this case, a big, dark, jammy rose partners with an oud that offsets its sweetness and amber and davana that accentuate its fruity facets. Tahani traces a path from extra sweet to warmly animalic-savory as it develops slowly on the skin, and while not, to my nose, as compelling or appealing as its cousin Tribute, enjoyable nonetheless.

Baque by Slumberhouse

Genre: Woody Oriental

A sweet dried fruit and tobacco composition in what I consider to be the typical, dense, viscous Slumberhouse style. Not necessarily the most nuanced or distinctive scent in Josh Lobb's current lineup (those would be New Sibet and Norne, respectively), but appealing enough, especially on a cold, damp Pacific Northwest winter night.

Bracken Man by Amouage

Genre: Fougère

What I smell when I wear Bracken Man is a rather traditionally-styled fougère, complete with lavender, coumarin, and bergamot. When it first came out, it occurred to me that along with Chanel's Boy, MDCI's Le Barbier de Tangier, and Dusita's Issara, Bracken represented a tentative rekindling of commercial interest in the traditional fougère genre. Following the apparently favorable reception of the more recent Erawan, I remain cautiously hopeful. After thirty-some-odd years during which the vast majority of new fougères have seemed compelled to quote some facet of Cool Water, a return to form of sorts might be welcome.

That said, Bracken Man is perhaps my least favorite of these revivalist fougères so far. I enjoy it well enough in isolation, but when I compare it with some of its brethren, most notably the MDCI and the Chanel, it feels comparatively loud and harsh. A welcome addition, then, but to my mind not necessarily the most compelling example of its emerging sub-genre.

Le Barbier de Tanger by MDCI

Genre: Fougère

I've come to lump Le Barbier de Tangier habitually with the nearly simultaneous Chanel Boy, Dusita Issara, and Amouage Bracken Man in a sort of classical fougère mini-revival – one which I welcome in the face of the umpteen-million Cool Water clones that the industry has churned out over the past three decades. Along with Issara , the Barber is one of my favorites from this lot, largely because it feels more articulate than the rather reticent Boy, yet more poised and balanced than the comparatively gruff Bracken Man.

The unfortunate other shoe to drop here is, of course, the cost. Given that the very fine – if admittedly diminished by reformulation – Azzaro pour Homme and Tuscany Uomo are still out there representing the genre, I'm not sure I'd pay $250 US per pop on a bottle of Le Barbier de Tangier. If, after sampling, one were to decide that the quality of ingredients employed by MDCI merits the premium, so be it. Me? I'll stick to my Tuscany.

Thumbs-up nonetheless, because it represents a gratifying trend.

Cadavre Exquis by Fazzolari + Gardoni

Genre: Gourmand Oriental

My wife is inordinately fond of sliced bananas, dredged in chocolate that she has melted in the microwave oven. Every so often she will enter the time on the microwave's panel incorrectly, resulting in a plume of burnt chocolate aroma that quickly fills the house. The combination of chocolate with the bitter/animalic accord common to so many of Antonio Gardoni's compositions is somewhat reminiscent of this burnt chocolate smell, but considerably less overwhelming. Set alongside a liqueur-like dried fruit accord, woods, and sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon), I find the whole idea compelling, if admittedly very loud. While I'm normally not a fan of chocolate gourmands, the bitter edge on this one makes it more palatable, if you will, and unlike some others, I enjoy the dissonance of the thing.

(All moot, as this was a limited edition release, and presumably long-since sold out.)

Latest Threads

Whatever your taste in perfume, we've got you covered...

catalogue your collection, keep track of your perfume wish-list, log your daily fragrance wears, review your latest finds, seek out long-lost scented loves, keep track of the latest perfume news, find your new favourite fragrance, and discuss perfume with like-minded people from all over the world...