Abdul Samad Al Qurashi: Crassna 25-yr Aged Oud

I decided to leave this 25 years old aged ou for a "second stage" of my approach with A.S.A.Q. scents, in order to get better in touch with the mood of the house and this Eastern way of composing and producing. I did not want to get it "wrong" or not be able to appreciate it at the fullest. I think I was right, now that I tested some other (great!) oils by this brand, I thoroughly enjoyed this exotic beauty. As the name says, Crassna 25 y.o. Aged Oud is an almost pure-oud oil rich in aged agar wood: I also smell a slight camphoraceous-salty note of amber gris, and perhaps a gentle addition of flowers, but this may all be due to the richness of oud. Which is obviously the prominent note, and as you can imagine by the quality of this house (if you are familiar with it), is beyond incredible. The opening is less "stinky" than I feared, not challenging at all; it's surely powerful and bold at first, but its woody, moldy muskiness manages to smell just utterly refined, evocative and rich like a Byzantine mosaic. Actually it's more musk and civet which smell sometimes unbearably "stinky" and indolic. The agar wood here is warm, woodier than wood, smoked (more than "smoky"), raw and organic, with a bit of "rancid" nuances probably due to aging, and a subtle salty aftertaste which as I said, smells a bit like ambergris. It's fun how here in Europe and USA we use the same name (oud) for, basically, depressing smoked rubber which has not the slightest resemblance with this material, in terms of depth, dimensionality, strength, evocative power. The evolution of this Crassna oil shows balsamic nuances which come and go, and again the "smoked" feel you also detect at the very opening - somehow similar to birch tar, a sort of smell of smoked ham. Not a complex scent, just a rich, archaic yet sophisticated harmony of notes: balsamic, dark, smoked, ambery, floral, salty... all in a raw, simple piece of black aged agar wood, stuffed like in a magic vase. After two or three hours the blend becomes increasingly softer and sweeter, more velvety and softer: notes of vanilla, amber and "warmer" woods make Crassna smell more cozy and mellow, always rich and smoked, just in a gentler and more understated way. The persistence is of course quite strong and long-lasting, you easily get a whole day of enjoyment with a small application of some drops on a small portion of skin - I guess that with larger quantities and perhaps applying them on clothes too, you get probably weeks of this heaven. Utterly refined and easily the best oud scent I have ever tried in my limited experience, I would consider this a mandatory "stop" for any perfume lover (a sample is enough and completely worth every penny: bear in mind these oils are pure concentrated power). A trip in space and time, perfect alone or great for layering with other oils.


Coquillete Paris: Tudor

Coquillete Paris (Paris, Italy...) is since a couple of years quite a hyped "new sensation" of the Italian niche market, which given the quality of the fragrances, seems to me owing its success pretty much entirely to the support of "friendly" bloggers and forums. This new Tudor they showcased at Pitti Fragranze, preceded by a (imho) hilariously kitsch video teaser, has sadly all the features of a chainstore fragrance: it's basically a woody rose scent with an alleged "dark" side I don't get that much, and a trendy-youngster vibe all over - pretty much like dozens of mainstream scents targeted at young women. Besides rosewood, which smells more like plain rose *and* wood, a balmy-creamy floral heart of galaxolide, a slightly earthy base of mossy notes, patchouli and benzoin, all rounded by vanillin and perhaps white musk ketones. Shortly after the first hour, it's all about a generic, dry, fairly plain and slightly dark rose-woody blend with no specific notes detectable. As much pleasant as uninspired, mediocre and dull, with barely decent materials (metallic and rubbery nuances, low projection and persistence). The price is not that high, at least, but in my opinion it's still not worth it. Strictly for parvenus.


Cerchi nell'acqua: An overview

Cerchi nell'acqua is an apparently underrated Italian niche line composed (and owned?) by nose Enrico Buccella. I've tested almost all the scents in their range (thanks to a friend which gave me the samples, no sponsorhips) and surprisingly they were almost all pretty much good, except for a couple of "fails" which however I tend to consider "in good faith". Here's the goods & the bads for me.



Ambr'erò opens with a powerful, spicy, dirty and carnally shady accord right out of a classic dusty feminine chypre; the amber is thick and dense, dark, boozy, lying on a base of mossy-earthy and slightly animalic notes which enhance its darker and gloomier side - I smell here benzoin, patchouli, oak moss, even civet perhaps. At the center floats a vibrant jasmine note, which is good and realistic and adds a humid, heavy and "grey" floral note to an already dark blend. An interesting amber scent for sure, really spicy and musky, and a bit "moldy" too, which retains the dusty and golden warmth of amber but underlines its darker nuances in a creative and clever way. I also detect something similar to ambergris, and I mean the real one, a sort of camphoraceous, organic, salty smell which is typical of that material - but perhaps it may just be vetiver blending with other notes. On the drydown Ambr'erò sticks to its dark, spicy, woody chypre path, well centered on the baroque, almost intoxicating richness of jasmine, with a warm, dirty, somehow musky shade of amber. Really elegant, compelling and pleasant to wear, sumptuously austere, well built for sure: a peculiar scent which starts from chypres but twists the clichés in an unusual modern way. Great persistence, powerful projection. Remarkable.




Keyword: citrus. The opening is just an overwhelming, ultra-sour bomb of citrus and lime, really bitter and zesty, terribly realistic, astringent and pungent like ammonia. Greener than green, with a hint of boozy, so basically like a lime cocktail. This opening is so powerful and realistic and extraordinarily raw, it almost does not really smell like a "perfume", rather a pure plain smell of citrus and limes, as if you cut one in two and apply it on your skin. In a way, it's quite a statement fragrance, as it's basically so martial, austere (composition-wise) and "basic" it may be taken like some sort of avantgarde, ultra-raw and simple citrus composition: a hyperrealistic take on the classic masculine "eau de cologne" tradition – as below all this citrus, there is indeed here too a subtle base accord of patchouli and woods. On the other side, though, after this brilliant opening something starts to emerge with increasing sharpness... which is that ammonia note I mentioned at the beginning of my review. It was just a nuance at first, but it soon starts to become the prominent smell. And ammonia is an euphemism for, well, "cat pee". A pungent and more and more unbearable synthetic harsh smell of that, which made me make quite a 180° change of mind about Exotique - it smelled promising at first, but then it went just wrong. An interesting idea perhaps, but sadly it just does not work for me.



White Out

White Out opens with a peculiar accord, at the same time rough and almost harsh yet clean and "white" indeed: a sort of powdery, "anidric" aldehyde with a white musky dust, sweet (vanilla) and resinous, with also a note of tonka, but at the same time really metallic, salty, "mineral" in an abstract and almost industrial way. There are these white-green floral and powdery-musky nuances blending with an almondy talc, slightly boozy too, all floating into a "grey", gloomy, austere post-industrial place. The concept seems not that far from Helmut Lang EDC for instance, although White Out is sweeter, spicier, less "clean" and less complex (less cool, shortly). The drydown is predictably more dry and more dark, always "white" but dirtier and more austere, with also a spicy-woody according emerging with more strength - always covered with a white thin dust of talc, vanilla, musky and almondy floral notes. Shortly a sort of grey, futuristic, spicy and clean Oriental scent. Really persistent, too (as all the fragrances of this line). A "déja-vu" perhaps... but well build and worth a try.




Ipazia is a pleasant "exercise" of rebuilding a fairy conventional floral-woody chypre with a modern taste. The opening shows nuances of aldehydes, a camphor note of benzoin, oak moss (unexpectedly thick and rich), neroli, herbal-balsamic notes, and a subtle hint of leather. A light breeze of flowers, mostly rose, provides a clever and lively powdery feeling which blends and contrasts with the overall chypre-sque "darkness". It reminded me a bit of Eau de Givenchy among others, as it has no animalic or carnal notes - so it's not a "bitchy" dirty chypre - but it's rather played on flowers, citrus notes, aldehydes, benzoin and woody-mossy notes, with a bold balsamic feel all over. The mood is quite radiant overall, still somehow austere and sophisticated, but on the bright side. Not that original, though (Eau de Givenchy is just the first among many references), and perhaps just a little bit boring after a while... but well made for sure, pleasant, persistent and dense, and most of all modern enough to smell just like a "tribute" of woody chypres (and not a boring "rip-off"). This is one of those – good – scents that may appeal more to "non-fans" of perfumes, while many "aficionados" (like myself) may consider this a bit derivative.




E5 opens with an overwhelming blast of citrus notes and a sweet, slightly creamy base of vanillin, patchouli, sandalwood and an accord which smells like castoreum to me, although I guess it's more the result of sweet notes (both vanilla and sandalwood) blending with mossy-woody-musky ones. But that is the feeling, which overall quite reminded me at first of Ettore Bugatti pour Homme (the first version from 1993), that has a similar opening – but the main difference is that here it's all in stereo power, boosted on steroids. And sadly in my opinion it shows the same "defect" of Exotique from this same brand: it's so powerful that it has a bold, and to me frankly unbearable smell of lemon-flavoured floor cleaner. Here added with a sweet note, which somehow makes it even more sickening. It's not about a "feel", or a "nuance": it's all over, it's the main smell, and it's quite strong. I don't know if it was intended or it's just too much citrus aromachemicals, but it smells really that way. Perhaps fans of "daring" scents à la Humiecki & Graef may like this; to me it's just a big "no" from the beginning to the end (no evolution whatsoever).




Simple but great. Emilie is an earthy and ambery patchouly with a subtle fruity-spicy accord, which provides a peculiar whiff of exotic and bittersweet warmth, sweetened by vanilla and perhaps tonka too. Really elegant, yet really natural, almost primitive, well enhancing the balsamic-earthy "hippie" personality of patchouli. Emilie is sharp and powerful, but really dry and so simple it's almost "basic", delivering a really peculiar and pleasant kind of organic and natural sense of refinement which - I don't know why - kind of reminds me of a certain type of "deconstructed" primitive-urban fashion (Doma, Saberi, Altieri etc.). It reminds me of fashion also because it brilliantly integrates the organic naturality of the materials in a modern, elegant and perhaps avantgarde composition style, "deconstructing" again the raw, almost archaic simplicity of materials and re-assembling it in modern ways. The composition is linear and quite "essential", yet it's not light: it's dense, smoky, earthy and dark. I don't get how it does it, but it manages to smell simple but totally fascinating, dry and austere yet cozy and warm. The drydown comprises more or less the same notes, just a bit drier and darker, with also a leathery-boozy feel all over, well contrasting with the powdery-ambery warmth. Great projection and long persistence too. One of the most interesting, pleasant and "different" patchouli around. Bravo Enrico!




Jolie is a(nother...) gourmand scent centered on vanilla, powder, tonka notes, patchouli on the base, white musks and aldehydes. Not far from White Out from this same brand, just sweeter and more based on vanilla – less futuristic, and sadly, less fascinating too. Basically, not far as well from pretty much any other vanillic gourmand à la Montale, or Comptoir Sud, or even Angel itself. Not much else to say: bold projection and everlasting linear persistence. For gourmand lovers – for anyone else, me included, highly forgettable.


Maria Candida Gentile new line: "The flight of the Bumblebee" (2014)

I've tested the new three scents by Maria Candida Gentile which compose the series "The flight of the Bumblebee", all connected by the presence of a honey note. She presented them at Pitti Fragranze and a friend kindly handed me the samples (which sadly did not impress me that much). Here's my observations about them.


Syconium is probably the best one among this new line by Gentile. It is basically a resinous, slightly milky scent with a sort of exotic allure all over (I honestly smell notes of tonka, almond and ginger, although they're not listed in the brand's website), comprising a heart of honey or beeswax, probably vanilla (dusty, rich, savoury), a solid accord of sweet yet realistic sandalwood and a green-floral and slightly fruity layer that makes the overall "spicy-gourmand" feel appear lighter and brighter. I guess the fig note is there, somewhere, although I do not get it well - perhaps both my "milky" and "fruity-green" references are due to that. Anyway, I like this scent because apart from the good quality of materials and the clever and balanced composition (which makes such an apparently "bold" blend smell sharp, clean, lively and dynamic), it is really evocative and nostalgic, making me think of cozy villages and rural fairs, with their smells and flavours of trees, plants, candies and sweets (gingerbread). Mediterranean but also Oriental in a way, simple and friendly, lively, graceful, much aromatic and pleasantly understated. Mellow and soft evolution. Well done!



Kitrea is a(nother) Mediterranean-inspired ozonic scent which tries to make the calone note smell gentler and warmer by blending  it with floral notes, amber, resinous-spicy notes (honey, tonka) and a subtle yet pleasant, silky and fresh aromatic breeze of something like bergamot or orange leaves. I must admit that Maria Candida Gentile is basically the only brand out there which is able to deliver decent "sea" scents which smell nice and not too much metallic or artificially boring. She nailed it with Finisterre, and she nails it again with Kitrea. What I enjoy the most here is the work around the "sea" note, which is wrapped up in a warm, silky, fresh and really aromatic mixture of notes, that manage to conceal its "bad" nuances and enhance the more pleasant ones, making it look like a credible and evocative watercolors painting of the Mediterranean landscape (not that it's the first one doing it, though). I still don't like this family of scents, but among them, this is surely one of the best around.




Houston, we've a problem. Straight to the point: Leucò is inexplicably too light and faint on my skin. And by this I mean I had some serious issues in coming up with a review since I could barely smell "something" with quite a lot of effort. I applied it then reapplied it, and did the same the day after, still what I smelled was just an ultra-delicate accord of woods (cashmeran? That type of clean, silky woods), something slightly resinous and pollen-sweet (olibanum, and I guess honey), a really subtle floral-green note which may be tea, and an unperceivable hint of earthy white flowers - the tuberose, I presume, which I always considered one of the most slap-in-your-face floral notes around. Nothing more. And believe me: it was all *really* light, light like the drydown of an average EDT the day after you applied it. And all of this, which is basically like trying to catch noises in the desert, lasted for less than one hour, then it was completely gone. Clean skin. Now I respect Maria Candida Gentile too much (well, "enough") to judge this as a "no" scent, perhaps my sample was corrupted or I've issues in detecting some notes. I'll just leave it with a question mark waiting to read other comments about this scent (to see if it's me or what...).


Bogue Profumo

Two of their three scents (I still haven't clear whether and which of these are discontinued).

The nose behind both scents is Antonio Gardoni.


MAAI opens as a great, stunningly powerful boozy-animalic-herbal chypre, a sudden jump on the time machine directly among the dirtiest and deepest chypres of the '70s and '80s – so many come to my mind I can't even name one. It's almost basically a prototype of that family of scents: leather, aldehydes, rose, carnation, herbs, castoreum, a slight gourmand undertone comprising earthy nuances of coffee, spices, a powdery-soapy accord with gentle notes of vanilla and chalky aldehydes. Nasty, austere, for virile men and bitchy ladies. Completely unoriginal, though: more than a tribute, or a "revision", or whatever "new version", it smells more like a perfect, impeccable and slightly pedantic copying exercise. It smells unbelievably compelling and "chypre" for real, which shows a great and careful effort in rebuilding notes which today can't be obtained and created "the old way" (like castoreum): still, taking all of this into account and acknowledging the fact that today's niche segment is so depressing it's much better to get this kind of stuff ("copycats of the past") than the rest, I don't get much the point of this scent, also considering the fact it's nice, which shall represent the "high" perfumery, the avant-garde, the élite. Simply because I would get myself an old, "real" skanky chypre, which by the way (aside from the rare and expensive ones) may probably cost quite less than this one, and smell more compelling, rich and "alive". But comparisons or personal choices aside, I admit MAAI smells quite good... for a while, at least. In fact, the other problem of MAAI, especially if compared again to older chypres, is the quality of materials and their duration: on my skin, after less than one hour, practically all the most interesting parts - the animalic, skanky stuff - are gone, and I remain with a generic, soapy-metallic herbal feel, still gloomy but quite toned down and frankly uninteresting. Once the facade collapses, you see it there was no building behind, like in the movies. So... when we'll run out of vintage chypres, I guess this will be the best we will be able to have, and I hope to be dead by then. For the moment, I can't care of MAAI that much.



Cologne Reloaded

The opening of Cologne Reloaded is remarkably powerful and deep, basically a straightforward, "in-your-face" condensed anthology of masculine chypres. Bold notes of lavender, citrus, wood, sandalwood, carnation, musk, leather: a dry and austere blend exuding "manliness" and darkness, with a quite funny aftertaste of smoked ham at many points, but still evocative and majestic. The moldy-sweaty-indolic note of civet is remarkable as well, I doubt there's real civet in here (just a feeling) but nonetheless it's a really appreciable and well-built rendition of this "king of dirt" note with its urinous, fecal, savage nuances. On the very base, a hard, raw and dry woody accord, the antique woody closet protecting this precious whiff of vintage smells (and a piece of rotting bacon - that subtle smell of smoked ham which I guess being due to birch wood, won't go away for quite a while). Finally, the drydown comprises a balsamic-woody accord dirtened with metallic nuances, that I don't enjoy that much but which are part of the game as you largely smell them in vintages too, and a slightly unrelated smell of garlic (I guess due to the drydown of civet). Overall impression: on one side it quite reminds me of some works by O'Driù, mostly for the fougère-animalic notes with a contemporary twist, just far more "conventional" and without that kind of creative/artistic/provocative aim. On the other side, it obviously reminds me of dozens of masculine chypres, which Cologne Reloaded is a well-crafted, yet a bit derivative "rebuilding" of. Technically, the materials and the composition are outstanding, you can smell Gardoni put a lot of care and work in this scent: the notes are deep and faceted, and the composition is cleverly balanced and highly enjoyable. And I appreciate the idea of taking back the concept of "daring" (with bold animalic stuff) in the niche world, which has completely forgot what "to dare" means (devoting religiously instead on the concepts of "boredom", "repetition", "marketing"). So, in short, an undoubtedly well-made tribute to an era. But... still, the same I wrote for MAAI applies here too: as long as I'll have access to vintages, I'll prefer them to these well-crafted yet slightly pedantic "reconstructions".

(some press I read elsewhere about this: "vintage materials from the 40’s that were found in an old pharmaceutical laboratory"? Oh come on...)


The three scents I am wearing the most at the moment

Quite a self-explanatory title. I reviewed these on Fragrantica and Basenotes in the past months, but surprisingly not here yet.

And the winners are...


Jil Sander Man by Jil Sander

Year: 2007
Nose: Thierry Wasser & Annick Menardo

A nice surprise for sure. I blind-bought this for 20 EUR at a sale, and I must say that if I could have tried this before, I'd have probably paid it even a bit more. Jil Sander Man is a discreet, refined, contemporary, a bit trendy but classy enough scent, basically a woody-leathery violet scent with vetiver and cedar ("pencil") notes and a slight smoky fog. All quite polished, satin and restrained, as you would expect from a mainstream scent with no "creative" pretenses – and I say this with a totally positive meaning, as being creative is surely not mandatory. A safe "office scent" for sure, but a particularly pleasant and well-made one, and if you ask me, also quite distinctive and memorable in its own discreet way. What strikes me the most here is the leather accord, which despite being quite delicate and almost unperceivable, smells unexpectedly elegant, rich, mellow and soft, polished and quiet but without smelling like pure, un-elaborated safraleine (as it happens so often with far more pricey scents). It smells materic, substantial, like a new pair of shoes, and its softness is cleverly enhanced by violet and resins, while woody-smoky notes of vetiver and cedar provide an elegant, manly, crisp darker counterpart, especially in the drydown, which is quite darker and woodier – always keeping it discreet and utterly pleasant (and well, with an unpleasant hint of norlimbanol, but just if you carefully look for it, so... nevermind!). A perfect undemanding yet elegant and compelling fragrance which I'd dare to consider a remarkable evolution of the concept of masculine "eau de cologne" - that type of unpretentious everyday fragrances good for any time, any situation and any mood.



Gucci pour Homme by Gucci

Year: 2003
Nose: Michel Almairac

Gucci Pour Homme I opens with a really delicate, subtle, sheer, yet captivating and interesting appearance which definitely whispers "2000s" to me – the era of creative, elegant synthetics like Cuiron and Yohji Homme, with which in fact Gucci Pour Homme shares some slight and general affinity, although tending more towards a trendy elegance, less experimental and less avantgarde. I must start by saying also that I've never been a fan of Gucci (considering the other two "holy grails", Envy for Men and Rush Men, I find them barely decent/nice), so what follows is not really ruled by "hype" enthusiasm. Anyway: Gucci Pour Homme I is basically a sophisticated, spicy woody-incense scent, quite linear and simple, with ginger, cinnamon, a little tonka rounding the base notes, slight floral powdery notes, and obviously the two main characters – woods (cedar) and incense, that is to say a "pencil sharpener" effect achieved with a remarkable dose of Iso E Super. Clean, sharp, "brown" as its colour. Other notes I smell and I see in the composition are patchouli and a more-than-subtle leather note, after a while also a (synthetic) vetiver note, and a darker woody note which comprises a nice coffee nuance. I don't get the rest of the notes listed, but Gucci Pour Homme I is actually a really tight and dense scent, and it's quite hard to dissect it into notes and accords – so in other words I guess all the rest is there, somewhere, blended and conceived so well I can't even notice it. It must be the fact this scent was one of the first to have this approach to masculine scents, this postmodern clean, sharp, sophisticated elegance, understated yet totally unique, but it's undoubtedly, terribly good, with just... something more than dozens of others which subsequently imitated it. I can't explain why, but despite showing some rather common notes, you just feel terribly good and elegant wearing it, and you keep coming back to smell it. It may smell "generic" at first, but instead this modest, clean discretion hides a beautiful, perfectly executed blend of nuances and notes. I love this ability to "hide" the complexity behind discretion and whiteness. Nonetheless, I would not consider this the masterpiece it appears to be, and I personally find the prices quite insane. Just a good, almost great scent to grab in case of good deals.


Black by Comme des Garçons 

Year: 2013
Nose: Guillaume Flavigny

Black opens with a black pepper explosion on dark woods, a licorice note synthetic yet earthy and powerful, perhaps vetiver, a hint of sheer leather and a heavy dose of Iso E Super, really concentrated and dense, to recreate CdG's signature "urban incense" feel. A good scent indeed, not challenging and quite versatile, but with a bold personality – artificial, but in a creative way, as CdG (sometimes) managed to do so well. Black and martial, woody and smoky, gloomy and sophisticated but "safe" and trendy enough to gain a broad appeal. The futuristic black brother of Fumerie Turque (or... the son of Bois d'ascèse, with more nuances – and far more pepper, which is quite the main character for hours.). Well done, and honestly priced too.


Update: just for the record, this grew incredibly on me to the point I finally bought it (I don't buy new scents so often). It has the same genius, versatile uniqueness of masterpieces like Yohji Homme - it smells so simple, so synthetic, yet so unique and addictive. I'd rate it 9/10 now!

Uèrmì Fragrance Collection - Part II

Some months ago I reviewed two scents from this new Italian niche line, now here's the remaining three ones. None of which is particularly less or more "meh" than the others. I've heard they've a new one out which is called "Latex" but I have no further information about that.

AB ± Cashmere

Year: 2014
Nose: Jean Jacques

The opening of Cashmere is extraordinarily similar to Scent Intense by Costume National, just a bit less "intense" and more greyish, but the notes are incredibly close (I have a bottle of the Intense and I just applied it on my other arm: the similarity is *really* close, especially initially and for quite a while). Basically Cashmere smells of sandalwood (a lot), cashmeran, a synthetic amber note (more like ambrette seeds or cetalox) and something fruity-floral on top, with the peculiar lively-aromatic juiciness of tea (Scent Intense comprises a tea leaves note, this one has osmanthus which is quite close to tea - not to insist on the comparison, but well...). All over this glossy, artificial creamy-woody-fruity concoction stands a light, grey, slightly dusty breeze of synthetic resinous incense. Say, something halfway Cuiron (apparently now that it's back in a different formulation we have to get used to say "the vintage" Cuiron), more or less any sandalwood scent (I thought of Geo Trumper's Sandalwood, for instance, but any average-cheap sandalwood works the same as reference) and as I said, Costume National's Scent Intense. After a while it becomes more a generic sandalwood scent on the sweet-creamy side, always also quite fruity. Pretty pointless to be honest, just get one of the scents I mentioned, which all cost a fraction of this (except Cuiron, obviously).



OH ± Denim

Year: 2014
Nose: Philippe Bousseton

Denim opens with a clean blend of neroli, ylang, tuberose, a creamy base of white musks, with a tiny dense taste of red pepper. A soapy-powdery floral scent, creamy and "white", luminous, synthetic (therefore plain and chemically "sharp") but nonetheless somehow vibrant and nice, although not that captivating or intriguing – in other words, pleasant and cozy as an ylang-white musks soap gel. I honestly don't smell the oak moss note, the only thing which may be closer to it is just a canonical balmy-earthy base. I assume the connection to denim is cotton, as this delicate, soft, mellow floral scent surely does not connect with the "rawness" of jeans. Synthetic drydown, but pleasant. Not bad (meaning not stinky), but not worth its price.



UR ± Silk

Year: 2014
Nose: Jean Jacques

Silk is a floral-green-fruity scent on the "white" side, fairly milky and soapy (white musks), with fresh and zesty green-citrus notes and a heart of synthetic fruits among which, most prominently, fig (again...). Overall, Silk is not particularly "sweet" as a gourmand, rather somehow liquid like a sun lotion, to which in fact it resembles quite a bit - so think of any other "beach cream" scent to get a rough idea (from Sun by Jil Sander to Shunkoin by Xerjoff and countless others). Still, among UèrMì line, it is probably the less dull: it smells minimal and simple as per concept of the line, but the notes smell somehow richer, denser, more realistic and nuanced than others. Not enough to avoid boredom, though: it smells richer than other UèrMì's, but in my opinion still quite plain, and despite seeming more realistic, it's still heavily synthetic, a side-effect you can smell quite clearly on the drydown - which carries that everlasting, plastic, annoying "fruity shampoo" feel of many fruity scents. Short longevity.


Requiescat: L'orpheline by Serge Lutens (2014)

L'orpheline ("the little orphan") starts with a blast of concentrated Iso E Super providing its smell halfway industrial vapors, synthetic incense, balsamic cedar. Which reminds me, again, of dozens of other scents which already elaborated this in every possible way, from Comme des Garçons to Escentric Molecules. The only additions here seem to be a peppery note and something sour-greenish, but basically it's a gigantic cloud of grey fog, purely synthetic, cold and kind of discomforting like waiting in a parking lot outside a refinery in the middle of nowhere. And that's it. The house which provided us with masterpieces like Ambre Sultan, Borneo 1834, Muscs Koublai Khan, seems now happy with this kind of stuff (this, L'eau froide, Laine de verre and so on). A brand which is starting to look like a sad little orphan indeed – let's get this Orpheline as a testament.


Resina by Oliver & Co. (2012)

I am starting to quite dig Oliver & Co. creations. Resina is perhaps Oliver's best scent so far among the ones I tested, as it brilliantly manages to present resins - which are surely not that uncommon in perfumery - in a different way, totally new and creative. It starts with a bold, dry, herbal accord which reminded me of some works by O'Driù, together with a warm, sticky and kind of "urinous-animalic" note (probably benzoin, but at first it smelled almost like castoreum to me), all surrounded by a fog of different resins offering an impressive harmony of nuances, from balsamic to rooty, from greenish to sweet, from sticky to balmy, to mossy, to earthy, even to "candied" and slightly floral-silky (labdanum) - a real chorus, basically, which transports you among woods, soil, earth, pine needles, small animals, branches, whiffs of fog.... Among all this, a "contemporary" breeze which to me smells like Iso E plus some synthetic amber, as it basically creates a sort of artificial dusty grey feel of "unscented incense" with a subtle salty note, which however perfectly fits the composition, reminding me of those contemporary architecture installments in natural environments.  So, basically for the first couple of hours Resina stays a grey-green-brownish scent with woods and resins, but also a sort of darker animalic note which comes and goes, and also a distinctive velvety and dusty feel, slightly sweet, which will eventually emerge better as the anisic note. Another note which emerges better as time passes is the coffee note, which blends with the anise note together providing a sort of earthy, sweet, dusty, warm and really aromatic feel all over, "warming up" and softening the scent as hours pass – which is a clever idea to make balsamic resins smell less boring (as they tend to do quite soon, in my opinion). The coffee note is probably the best I've ever found in perfumes so far: finally a genuine, raw, sour, earthy and dry roasted coffee beans note, and not some idiotic, creamy, sweet Starbucks coffee gourmand note. It's not the main note here, but after some 2-3 hours I could detect it quite clearly and sharply. The last phase of the evolution of the scent comprises a balsamic feel arising with increasing prominence, melting with the smells of woods, pines, coffee and resins - a balsamic feel halfway natural and resinous, and synthetic (the Iso E incense note, and also later on, a slight pungent feel of eugenol). The only reference I could think of is: a sort of intergalactic pro-nephew of Filles en Aiguilles with a hint of CdG Kyoto, a sweeter-silkier side (coffee and anise), more nuances, more colours, more exotism, and a genius subtle feel of pure futurism. An amazing scent which truly impressed me: it's solid, well-built, really dynamic, full of creativity and clever ideas, plus it's elegant and refined in its own peculiar way, not challenging at all. Yet i's a bit costly and I am not sure if it's worth the cost (up to you, in the end), all I can add is that it lasts for long, with a solid projection and a remarkably enjoyable evolution. Bravo Oliver!


O.P.S.O.: Dalila & Araia

O.P.S.O. is an Italian niche brand whose name stands for something I am too lazy to google for at the moment, however these two fragrances are - unexpectedly - pretty darn good.


What a nice surprise this scent was. Before actually testing I was beyond skeptical about the brand, which I've never heard of until, well, I received the vial (from a friend). A niche brand which brags about having a "long history", while on the contrary the company has been registered in 2009 retrieving an old brand which has been dead and silent for decades (that's not being a "historical" brand: that's just scavenging dead cheap trademarks to revamp for pennies - the same Oriza L. Legrand or Rancé 1795 did, basically). Still, I gave this scent a shot, and... well, the perfume itself is just amazing. I mean it: it's really, really good. It smells like what Penhaligon's tries to achieve since years. And call me mad, just to mention another brand I thought of, quite better than Neela Vermeire orientals. Anyway: shortly, it's a quite classic and much refined Oriental floral scent, where you can smell loudly and clearly all the (good quality) materials: the aromatic, exotic freshness of bergamot and citrus, the powdery-waxy iris and violet notes, the carnal elegance of rose, the earthy-pollen and slightly green heliotrope note, the rooty – but quite restrained – earthiness of patchouli, and the mellow presence of sandalwood on the base. Surprisingly you also perceive quite clearly the presence of osmanthus, which smells great and perfectly blends with the other flowers: it sports its delicate tea soul, but also its shady earthiness, which often so-called osmanthus scents don't show that much. Perhaps Araia is a bit unoriginal, but really well made, rich in radiant elegance and sophisticatedly effortless. Plus it has a great projection and a good longevity, with no mistakes or stinky chemical tricks. Bravi!




Dalila is a pleasant and well-made juicy floral scent with green accents, a heart of neroli and aromatic orange blossoms: lively and airy, but vibrant and radiant, delicate and white, wrapped in a humid, crunchy and zesty green accord and a more creamy and subtle white floral accord (ylang, jasmine). Overall the blend is terribly pleasant, with a really peculiar mood halfway oniric and ancestral, aristocratic and "domestic". For once, a "historic" house (which is not actually historic, as they've been founded in 2009) manages to deliver a palpable feel of the Italian bourgeois and provincial aristocracy of the beginning of the XX century, with its austere and decadent, but at the same time relaxed and effortless, Mediterranean elegance. Not much persistent, but fascinating.



Zarkoperfume - Three picks

A relatively new niche house base in Denmark, three picks from their line.


Sinking again in the "minimal-futuristic-industrial" niche cliché. Inception is, basically, a bomb of cold metal, pollution gas, calone, carbon and aldehydes, with a subtle silky breeze of flowers, sheer and transparent like frozen among this industrial-azure noise; sour and venom green notes encrusted in the aldehydes, and a generic woody base. That's it, the olfactory depiction of any hipster "post-industrial" ambiance - with water (think of some Hashima island). The evolution is close to zero, the persistence - given it's all so dramatically synthetic - is deadly everlasting. Nothing new in the segment, but if you're into that...




The name is a bit deceptive (but I guess it's intended and ironical), as Oud'ish is basically an ambery scent with sweet, dusty notes of olibanum blended with a sort of abstract, thin, soft and sheer oud note, providing a subtle feel of dry, smoky, brownish and rubbery woodiness. Which is nice, by the way, as it smells like a sort of "empty" devoided note of oud, and that seems a clever idea to me – also, and most important, cleverly executed. In a way, this is not far from the drydown of early M7, less sweet and more green, also thanks to its green tea note. Moreover it has a bolder and cold "futuristic" feel all over, provided by a thin calone note (again...), which fluctuates over this warm, brown blend like an icy, sheer, industrial azure breeze. The contrast is indeed nice, you wouldn't say that (well, I did not surely), but it works somehow. The most interesting and compelling among the three I've tested from this house.




E'L is another calonic scent which smells basically like Inception from this same house, just a bit toned down, softer, slightly gentler, with an abstract floral-woody breeze. Less aggressive and metallic than the other one, but we're close to it. I appreciate the attempt to offer another ozonic scent, in 2014, without pushing on the "sea-iodine-fresh" communication marketing, but trying to keep it more decontextualised and abstract; yet the smell is always the same – I mean, calone is calone, that bold, cold, metallic stuff, whatever way you try to place it. Uninteresting for me, but if you're into the genre...


Pathétique by O'Driù

God save Pregoni!

Pathétique is an unexpected change among O'Driù work, almost a rupture, or however a bold twist. It has some clear connections with his previous works (vanilla, some animalic notes, a sort of almost unperceivable medicinal-anisic feel), but the overall mood and many notes are quite new for him. Basically, it opens with a surprisingly white, creamy, sweet accord (almost milky at the beginning), rotond, radiant, also rather peaceful and suspended, meditative and mystical: there's incense underneath the sweet notes, a sweet, talc, dusty, sheer kind of incense (Angelo told me he used two different incense resins here). All is permeated with a weird sort of narcotic, warm, liquid sweetness, halfway liturgic and "uterine" in a way - although I've never had the pleasure to either sit into a uterus or be able to remember the only time I've been into one for a while (and I can say the same for a church). Still this overall feel is deceptive, because shortly a subtle, dirty fog of odd darker notes arises, melting with the white clean breeze of vanilla, spices, white flowers and tonka (I'm referring to notes I smell, perhaps the actual materials aren't there). Between these two contrasting axes, an earthy-rooty accord made of black truffle and vetiver. I don't know how he actually built that truffle note, but it smells quite close to truffles, and it suprisingly fits the composition perfectly, providing an exotic, slightly gassy feel of earth and roots. Plushy clouds and dirty soil, innocence and dirt: a far more "pervert" scent than the other one he made which is actually named "Xvert". I may also think of a nun, dressed in pure white, but with her dirty secrets... and tons of other clichés, so I'll stop and go back to the perfume. Which, speaking of how it actually smells, incidentally also reminded me of some early-2000s scents, notably the most "lunar", clean, futuristic-white ones, like some Costume National, Cacharel, CdG, Lang... I found here that same kind of white, spicy, exotic "whiteness", although Pathétique expresses it in a less synthetic and more complex way.
So overall, quite a remarkable twist from O'Driù's previous style, which was quite more on the herbal/spicy/dark side, more animalic too, and in a way more obsessive and organic. Pathétique is surely quite close to Eva Kant and Peety, still delivering that mellow, ambiguous, woody, rooty, medicinal, mesmerizing feel all over; but enhancing cleanliness, whiteness, sweetness and gracefulness. Personally I find it incredibly refined and honestly irresistible, besides being complex and interesting to "elaborate" and discover - it's also simply a great scent to wear, it's sophisticated, vibrant, warm, unisex. The drydown is fairly drier than the previous phases, always sweet but more dusty, with  a darker feel of benzoin, perhaps even a hint of castoreum, then woods, and then again earthy and rooty notes, leather (I think) and a slight metallic feel. More "grey" than white at this stage, with still a weird "fog" all over which provides a feel of talc, just dirtened with dust and soil - I think it's still the truffle note, however that is built (aldehydes?). Pathétique may sound complex (and it is), and surely my erratic review won't help in clarifying how it smells, but the scent is not messy for sure. One of Pregoni's main talents is to manage to stuff a load of notes, shades and nuances in tightly-packed, perfectly harmonic blends, and this is the case too. Pathétique is elegant, versatile, friendly, even "easy" if you don't mind to explore it, and that is a great achievement for sure – to manage to create a scent which can be "read" and used at different levels. Compelling, honest, true creativity at its best. Finally, sillage is huge and so is persistence (money well spent, in short). Better try it first, but if you like it, a full bottle is a good investment for sure. Another (almost the only...) highlight of 2014 for me.


10.000 visits!

My first little milestone! Five months here so far. Given I basically don't promote my blog in any active way (just keeping it as signature on a couple of forums, no giveaways, no promotional exchanges, no tradeshows...), that sounds great. Although I have no idea of how blogging works in terms of visits, so maybe that is a really low treshold. Well who cares, I'm happy, thanks a million!

P.S. if you enjoy my rants & reviews here, there's hundreds of other ones on Fragrantica/Basenotes, although you most likely come from there so you know that already... well, just saying!

Royal Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Amazing, period. And trust me: for this one, you don't really need to be a "connoisseur" or to make some efforts to agree with me. It's pure, straightforward beauty. Royal Blend is a *fantastic* oud-woody-ambery (ambergris) scent with nuances of flowers and vanilla, which easily outclasses any other (especially niche) scent with these types of notes. The opening is warm, refined, deep, with a thick, smoky, slightly dry woody base (the oud, which is quite restrained here, nonetheless outrageously enjoyable), resins, a few spices, and something so irresistibly radiant and luminous, warm, silky: it's vanilla seeds, so dense and graceful they smell also of velvet and flower petals. No flowers in the composition, but I clearly smell them, light and lively, sweetening and softening the woody-ambery blend. The quality of the materials is so great you get a physical feel of coziness, warmth, confidence and utter pleasure, like watching a summer sunset on the sea, scented with your favourite perfume, waiting for dinner to be served. Each ingredient carries its nuances; the ambergris is camphoraceous, slightly skanky, slightly salty, at the same time mellow and balsamic. The oud, well, it's real (and I guess, quite aged), so you know already what to expect if you've ever experienced the real, great, magically complex smell of agar wood. What intrigues me of Royal Blend is the final result, which is this warm elegance that sticks to your skin for hours, sensual and sophisticated, Oriental and opulent but at the same restrained and utterly refined. I won't dare to say that this seems to be the true nature of Arabian perfumery, all about elegance and natural mystery, but surely these are the main qualities I am finding – for the first time in my life – in these oils by Al Qurashi, contrary to what I am used to with my Western modern perfumes (which have other qualities, I am not saying they are rubbish, obviously). Also, the projection is impressive here: I applied some drops on my left hand, and I could easily smell it "on" me like if I sprayed it all over my clothes. And as all other Al Qurashi oils I've tested so far, the persistence is great, surviving a shower - in this case it did even not only survive it, but actually became better after it, more deep, more bright, more silky, like if the combined action of warm water and soap had somehow "helped" it to penetrate more deeply in my skin. Or well, however it smelled still gorgeous. Easily my personal favourite from Al Qurashi so far, as it has really them all – class, deepness, complexity, persistence, versatility. It's less complex and less challenging than other oils, so in a way less "interesting" perhaps, but fairly more versatile and with a (probably) wider potential appeal, and I appreciate this balance of qualities - hence my high rate. I've written it also for other products from this house but I feel to repeat it here too, even if I may sound affiliated with them (which I am not, obviously): any perfume fan shall try these products once in a lifetime.


Antonio Alessandria, 2014

A new Italian niche heavily supported by... supporting friendly blogs, forums and magazines in Italy (we call them "marchettari"). Meh. The guy is sweet and nice, though. But meh.

Nacre Blanche

Probably the nicest of Alessandria's line in my opinion. A pleasant "white" bouquet (tuberose, ylang) with zesty, refined and aromatic notes of bergamot and tangerine on top, something slightly fruity (blackcurrant? Tea? – oh ok, it's osmanthus, close enough...) on a soft base of vanilla dirtened by a grumpy leather accord, not even this close to any proper leather accord as we vintage lovers are used to with our beloved chypres and fougères; still a decent leather, polished, restrained, trendy and inoffensive (think of Puredistance M and the likes). That's it, but it works: a simple, nice contrast of a few opposing axes – white notes, fruity notes, "black" notes. As the other two scents of this brand, the longevity is quite an issue, but this one is promising enough.


Nuit Rouge

The opening of Nuit Rouge is deceptively sharp and crisp (you'll read why I say "deceptively"): a bold note of rhubarb, with its peculiar sort of "vegetable-rooty-reddish" feel, well blending with the buttery note of iris, green notes, perhaps red pepper or carnation, spices (tonka for sure), resins, patchouli, vetiver, a light thin of polished leather on the base, with Iso E combining woods and incense. It all smells so undoubtedly "niche": it has that contemporary and crisp (and slightly depressing) "polished leather" note you find anywhere in nowadays' "élite" of perfumery, which is nothing more than a galore of safraleine that after a couple of hours always starts to smell like burnt rubber; it has a couple of "almost-unusual" notes (rhubarb, riding the small trend which seemed to arise around this note last year - following Jovoy's L'art de la Guerre, which is to any extent superior to this one); it *looks* creative basing on the composition; it smells "chic"... and it quite lacks in deepness, substance and interest, as most of niche seems to be happy with these days. This said, if you're into niche all of that would probably represent a "plus" to you - contrary to me – so let's talk about the smell itself. Nuit Rouge is (mediocrely) pleasant, elegant, "nocturnal red" as the name suggests, delivering a (mediocrely) refined, carnal blend halfway earthy, rooty, leathery and dark, but also slightly fruity and powdery. All quite in a plain way, as I said, but the smell is nice enough, at least at first... because all of that I ranted about above wasn't even the main problem, actually: the main issue with Nuit Rouge (and with all Alessandria's line) is that basically you can smell most of the scent clearly enough for less than hour. After that, most part of it it's gone. And you remain with a generic, faint drydown with a hint of leather and a pale ghost of all what was there before. And an empty wallet in your pocket. So, shortly, not a disaster, but... "more talk than action".


Noir Obscur

Noir Obscur is in my opinion a "nothing-more-that-cute" ambery-leather scent, good if you're new to niche or with particularly low expectations and pretenses. Contemporary, plainly trendy, fairly similar to a lot of other leathers, softened by vanilla, ambery notes, olibanum, a subtle floral breeze which delivers a sense of radiance and refined whiteness all over, but also on the other side a slight hint of ambiguous, earthy carnality, slightly boozy too - an effect enhanced by the rhum note you clearly smell at the opening. Woods and patchouli. Quite delicate overall, it has a nice inner dynamism, but it's all quite restrained and toned down, too much to appreciate it in my opinion. It would be a good scent honestly, if someone just turned up the volume and the persistence knob. After less than one hour, in fact, all you remain with it's basically a generic, still pleasant but fairly dull synthetic leather-amber-floral scent which can be anything. I admit this one lasts for some decent four or five hours, which is the best I got from this line in terms of persistence, but the deepness and the texture you get for these hours are incredibly thin and delicate, fairly lacking in substance and character. Basically, the drydown other scents have after, say, 8 hours and a shower, you get it here after barely 2 hours. You know what this all feels similar to? Being at a rock concert with earplugs on. You kind of hear something, but...


Danger pour Homme by Roja Dove (2011)


Heritage by Guerlain or, to a lesser extent, Zino Davidoff anyone? First thing that came to mind. If I had paid that amount for this I would be *so* pissed off. Anyway... besides being a hilariously pathetic rip-off of the two bottled gents mentioned above, Danger pour Homme is a decently executed woody-spicy scent, dry and earthy, with a slight animalic note (synthetic castoreum) and a general late fougère structure. I smell patchouli, a sort of mossy-earthy camphoraceous base, a dry thin layer of leather, synthetic but pleasantly thick ambergris, aldehydes, spices (a lot of cumin, then cloves) a sweet breeze carrying a spicy-nutty feel (tonka, rhubharb). Which, as I said, strongly reminds me of Heritage and other similar perfumes - whereas Fetish pour Homme plagiarized Moschino pour Homme and vintage Bel Ami, this one is all about early '90s. The scent itself is decent, even if completely lacking in depth, substance and interest, contrary to the vintages it clumsily tries to emulate. Surely better that many other niche scents, I won't argue that. After a couple of hours, so basically on the drydown, there is even room for a nice twist; it arises a fresh, slightly minty balsamic breeze with a subtle sweet-anisic feel, and also the leather emerges better together with a fougère herbal-spicy. This "moves" Danger a bit far from that unbearable resemblance to Heritage, which does not disappear obviously, but at least becomes less noticeable. But that occurs too late to make me change my mind. Uncreative, uninspired and pretentious. And even with a below-average persistence.


Russian Tea Ritual by Masque Milano (2014)

Here's the new creation by Masque Milano - got my sample from a friend who got it at Pitti Fragranze some weeks ago.

The opening of Russian Tea is, roughly said and with all respects of differences, Bois d'ascèse with green tea and menthol, which kind of gives you the feeling of a someone chewing a chewing gum while smoking. Or a chewing gum left in an ashtray. Or, in terms of perfumes, Geranium pour Monsieur meets Bois d'ascèse. Nonetheless, all works perfectly, managing to sound quite new despite the similarities: there is this great clash between the black angular linearity of the ash-woody notes (a thick, smoky, dense Iso E Super galore) with the sour, crunchy, and still somehow angular feel of the green-mint notes. On top of that, just a faint echo of flowers providing a subtle silky feel to an otherwise quite dry blend - and a smart hint of immortelle providing its peculiar and fascinating sort of boozy-earthy note. On the base I also detect some suede, and at the very center, something slightly fruity (I read "berries" on the sample). Pretty much it. And total class, if you ask me. As hours pass the similarity with Bois d'ascèse (or similar scents) progressively decreases, Russian Tea becomes quite more woody and leathery still keeping a nice, more and more subtle green-fruity-floral feel. The name fits the scent perfectly, as this is indeed a cold, somehow grey, decadent, but at the same time archaic, dusty, evocative scent. I think of Russia, but quite a post-modern idea of Russia, with archaic traditions still being protected and maintained in a cold war atmosphere. It speaks of tea leaves and samovars, but also concrete and ash dirt. Which gives you a melancholic feel of suburban domestic warmth and sense of safety and community provided by this "ritual" still being retrieved among a sea of concrete and pollution fog (I admit my knowledge of post-cold war Russia is limited to Kieslowski's movies). Besides impressions and associations, however, Russian Tea is indeed a sophisticated, unisex, versatile dark scent, perhaps too woody or dry for someone, for me it's purely refined and utterly pleasant. One of the nicest new scents of 2014 composed by one of the very (very!) few noses to keep an eye on these days – and provided to us by one of the very (again: very!) few Italian niche houses I personally respect. Bravi!