The best of 2014

Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant by Kenzo (1996)

Nose: Dominique Ropion

The opening of Kenzo Jungle Elephant is really peculiar and intriguing (as all its evolution will be): it’s quite sweet but with a dusty, almost sandy texture, and played around an odd and playful concoction of mild notes, somehow gourmand-fruity on the “exotic” side, but quite more bizarre and fascinating than the usual “exotic” clichés. I almost don’t get any note precisely, as this scent is really thick and harmonic; I get more just a sort of psychedelic talc-spicy gourmand blend permeated with a warm, ambery, culinary sweetness and scented with spices (ginger and cumin, to me), a floral-soapy-pollen breeze comprising mostly heliotrope, cardamom, tonka, a fresh green head accord, on a base of sweet notes with a more substantial and shady texture (like white musks with something woodier or earthier underneath). Hallucinogen and totally fun, but it works great: take the world of Teint de Neige by Villoresi or Boucheron’s Jaipur, that kind of “clean”, cozy, slightly formal Oriental powderiness, and bring it upside down, colouring it with a crazy sci-fi jungle/tiki feel: wet flowers, crunchy branches, shades and bright beams, odd sweet flavours of someone cooking God knows what psychotropic candies somewhere deep in the forest. Lively, playful, shameless, raw... but at the same time perfectly solid, pleasant, elegant, cozy and versatile. Just a tad tacky perhaps, but that's part of the fun. Not sure if my review makes sense, but L’Elephant is worth a try for sure – another cheap, under-the-radar designer scent easily overpassing recent niche fragrances to all extents (creativity, uniqueness, quality).


R'oud Elements by Kerosene (2011)

Nose: John Pegg

The opening of R’oud Elements by Kerosene shows quite many features and recurring notes of America’s contemporary indie perfumery: powerful, slightly boozy-terpenic, dark and incredibly rich, halfway the dark-syrupiness à la (early) M7, mostly for the same amber-oud-booze-herbs structure, and the metallic black amber reminding me of some Slumberhouse scents. Above this, a sharp, sour, dry and aromatic greenish accord with bold metallic whiffs (which don’t sound cheap, though, as they seem “intended” to provide a sort of post-industrial feel, which I guess quite fits the brand – or at least its name) and a base woody accord in fact quite similar to oud – smoky, dry, animalic, with a compelling shady and warm richness. The sandalwood lies somewhere on the very base, just providing a subtle drop of sweetness well contrasting with the general smoky, dark and almost “rotten” vibe. Overall: not bad at all, I enjoy the contrasts between the dark notes and the hints of sweet colour, wrapped in a warm, dark amber and woody feel. After a while the bold metallic aftertaste gets kind of annoying to me, but at least it seems a creative choice with its “raison d’etre” here. The projection is quite loud and the texture in my opinion smells as much creative as quite “elementary” somehow (not minimal, rather just barely simple to the point of smelling clumsy from times to times), but as I said... solid.


Nononsense 5 by Nico Uytterhaegen (2011)

A contemporary, abstract, “post-industrial” fragrance which does not smell idiotic (and it’s not a CdG)? Hooray. No nonsense #5 opens with a hyper clean soapy-aldehydic accord of pure chemical notes, a grayish-white blend mixed with a wet-concrete like note of dusty musk. Green-floral notes provide a whiff of fresh breeze, crisp and clean too, and on the base I think I detect something woody-mossy (but I guess it’s a nuance of musk). I don’t get the amber accord initially, but once the scent warms up on skin, you feel it arising like a dawn. Finally, I smell a hint of something slightly nutty, like tonka. All of this is quite tightly packed together in a really thin but dense texture, pure grayness in a bottle. A peculiar scent, which you’ve to smell with attention and care in order to get it: in my opinion, it’s more complex and fascinating than it may seem it at a first sniff (or well, that’s my experience with this). The composition is well crafted, clever and unusual, and works perfectly managing to make these few and rather common notes smell “new” and intriguing. A totally compelling, truly contemporary take on musk, which lasts for hours on mainly grayish-musky notes as much abstract as warm, drier and darker as hours pass, with “urinous” nuances on the drydown. Not a masterpiece but much better than I expected. Worth a try for sure!


Comme des Garçons X Undercover


Holygrace is a bright, transparent, sweet dusty-incense scent, with a cozy sort of cashmeran-like accord on the base (sandalwood, cedar, both heavily synthetic and clean). Soft, sharp and luminous, with a fresh tart opening then gently fading into a spicy-sweet central phase (ginger, red pepper). Overall silky, balsamic, kind of “plushy”. Sweet, but sharp too in a way, as it’s (as most CdG’s) quite “modern” and artificial. A bit dull too, honestly, and therefore soon boring in my opinion, but I won’t say it’s unpleasant. Just too light, too bright, a bit uncreative perhaps, and too ephemeral.




Holygrapie opens as a creamy-green scent with bright floral notes (bit à la Wisteria by the same brand), slightly spicy too, fresh and crunchy with a general feel of synthetic and clean abstractness, well blended with a subtle musky “wet soil” base accord which “darkens” the scent, providing a sort of “humid concrete” feel on the very base (not sure what this may be due to, though – I guess styrax and woods). Apart from this gray shade, a “white” scent indeed. I also get the rhubarb note, kind of melting with the green notes. Then, after one hour or so, Holygrapie almost unexpectedly “opens” blossoming up in a brighter, minimal sort of powdery blend, sweet and slightly soapy, with sandalwood, ylang and orris root emerging. It becomes softer and sweeter than the initial stage, with pink nuances blending with white and grey. All still much clean and tamed down with a bold sort of “contemporary austere” feel, yet really nice. I enjoy the transition between the initial and quite sharp greenish-sour-crunchy accords to this second phase, much more on the silky-sweet side. I also quite like the fact this scent may appear almost dull or too light (well, it’s a bit light indeed...), while instead I find it clever and refined – just a “whispered” kind of refinement. Nice!


Niche poop roundup # whatever

You missed that, didn't you?

Seriously, save your money.

No years, no photos, no nothing - it's niche poop's shame corner!


Fruits of the Musk by Montale 

Fruits of the Musk is a completely, desperately synthetic fruity scent, as much milky-syrupy as pungent and artificial. White vanillic musks on the base, together with a dry, dusty and artificially earthy note of patchouli. That’s it, perfectly identical to itself for hours. Boring, cheap, plain, with the same quality, elegance and creativity of the worst celebrity fragrance out there.



Oud by Robert Piguet

Harsh, metallic, powerful opening of aldehydes, cloves and other spices, Iso E Super, something slightly sweet-resinous and an almost unperceivable note of synthetic oud (which basically smells like just being “created” by the juxtaposition of aldehydes and some chemical rubber-ish aromachemicals). The only “realistic” note I get is the fir balsam, which is quite powerful together with aldehydes and spices. I don’t get why they called it “Oud”, as it’s basically all about aldehydes, spices and fir balsam. After some hours (I mean 6 or 7) you get more clearly what remains of the note of synthetic oud – not that this is an added value, as it feels like: “where the hell have you been?”. Pungent, artificial, incredibly powerful (like many other new Piguet’s): a tacky, clumsy, annoying and remarkably unpleasant bomb of metallic-synthetic stuff which has not the slightest resemblance to oud – and more sadly, to Piguet’s old trademark quality. I’ll not beat a dead horse, but: horrible!



Soleil de Capri by Montale

A terrible citrus-fruity candy, as much realistic and intriguing as a chewing gum, with (synthetic) pungent green notes and a milky base of white flowers and musk ketones. Clumsy, cheap and sickening.



Notes by Robert Piguet

At the first sniff Notes smells like a ton of cheap, mass-marketed colognes: a dull bergamot-citrus note with aromatic neroli, synthetic mossy woods, a hint of evernyl (synthetic oak moss), something vaguely floral (lavender) and some aromatic fruity notes. I don’t want to sound pretentious with all these “something” but that is what I smell – generic plain stuff, precisely like in any mall’s fragrance or deodorant. To which Notes smells quite similar in fact, basically it is a generic “whatever” masculine aromatic citrus-woody cologne. Both uninspired, as it sits close to the cheapest [insert inexpensive chainstore brand] scent’s around, and even within this lack of creativeness or at least “elegance”, particularly clumsy and cheap-smelling. So basically it’s boring and not even nice. The price is pure highway robbery to me, and that is part of why my review may sound too grave. Let’s stick to vintage Piguet’s and pretend the brand doesn’t exist anymore...


(I forgot to specify that after the first sniff nothing changes for hours)


Tumultu by Les Liquides Imaginaires

Possibly the least “tumultuous” fragrance I’ve ever tried. A quite simple cedar-sandalwood scent stuffed with Iso E Super and at least another woody-ambery aromachemical, with a hint of tart citrus notes on head, a general overall feel of sweet glossy grayness with a slight creamy substance. All artificial, but not enough to carry some “abstractness” or whatever creative meaning for me – just more plain boring. Plus, it quickly loses the few barely interesting facets (notably the initial “invigorating” clash between citrus notes and woods) becoming an endless straight line of Iso E sweetened by a pale debris of sandalwood, and hint of vanilla perhaps. For hours. Not stinky, but cheap, unsubstantial, uncreative and pretentious; surely unworth being considered “niche”, if the term still has some meaning and value – which apparently has not anymore (I’d give this a higher rate if it was a 20 EUR mainstream scent; but it’s not).



Safari Moon by Memo Paris

Safari Moon opens with a fresh, minty-balsamic floral accord without praise or blame, a generic and fairly synthetic bunch of flowers with spices (mostly tonka), citrus head notes, light woods on the base which will then emerge better, notably vetiver. It may sound uninteresting, and in fact it totally is. An uninspired, generic (which here means: “like hundreds of others”) barely decent green-woody-floral Oriental scent on the fresh-aromatic side. Linear drydown. Boringly pleasant, but nothing really “niche”. To quote alfarom on Basenotes: “designer in disguise”. My low vote is also due to the fact that I’ve seen this bottle of boredom on sale in Italy for some 140 EUR for 75 ml, which sounds like a prank, but sadly it’ not. Parvenus' stuff, and another Memo I wouldn’t care for.


Beloved Man by Amouage (2013)


Year: 2013
Noses: Alexandra Carlin and Emilie Coppermann

Beloved Man opens as a pleasant sort of contemporary aromatic-fresh fougère, a woody scent with spicy-floral notes, a green accord (not listed, but I do smell something herbal, balsamic and pine-y). I also get something like a soft, smooth and subtle leather note underneath. The opening is fresh and vibrant, with a nice head accord of round and fruity citrus and bergamot notes (and elemi, which is basically only a generic candied feel), well blended with cedar and the aromatic, salty earthiness of vetiver. In the middle, violet, amber, spices (cloves, cumin), perhaps other flowers. Amber and violet above all provide a cozy sense of mellow warmth. As other Amouage scents, it has an “expensive-smelling” radiant brightness, and is surely pleasant and refined, although also quite a bit synthetic (not in a good way). Plus, nothing really original: again, like other fragrances by this brand, it shows a quite evident inspiration from several late 90’s/early 2000s masculine mainstream scents. Moving on from the opening, once the fresher side tones down, it becomes a darker woody-spicy scent which to me seems pointing towards a couple of “golden-era” Gucci scents. Notably, underneath Beloved Man I feel a sort of faded ghost of Gucci pour Homme I; just fresher, a bit more flashy, and with more Iso E Super, but the "spiced pencil sharpener" is quite totally there. For a while, the similarity smells quite clear to me, then on the very drydown Beloved takes a (slightly) different direction, becoming a bit more dry, herbal, with a more nostalgic and austere feel. Not bad for sure, so keep it and treasure it if someone gifts it to you; but nothing really new and surely unworthy the insane price.


Teint de Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi (2000)


Teint de Neige is a really nice “white” musky-aldehydic soapy scent floating in a plushy, dusty cloud of talc, with Oriental notes of tonka, spices, amber, vanilla, a powdery and graceful accord of flowers with a prominent pollen-like note of heliotrope. Warm and cozy, and quite superior quality-wise to many other Oriental “white-sweet” scents. The texture here is thick, rich, deep, smelling round and clean – I bet Villoresi (which for long time has been a great, honest and professional nose) used excellent ingredients here. I really enjoy the golden exoticism blended with a mellow, soapy and “chic” feel of warmth - feels like being in the coziest bath tub in the world. Despite being soft and sweet, is not exactly a discreet scent, so I’d use it more as a “comfort scent” at home; people around you may not enjoy its quite powerful sweet-Oriental projection. It’s refined, just a bit bold for a while. After a couple of hours it turns towards soapy-pollen notes of flowers, becoming a bit more grey, dusty, dry, with a more prominent presence of amber, slightly melancholic and pleasantly “outdated” too (the camphoraceous aftertaste of white musks plus aldehydes, I guess), always with exotic hints of tonka. Shortly just a bit less plushy and sweet than the opening. Long-lasting, mellow drydown with mostly talc-soapy-ambery notes. Graceful and refined. I thought of Jaipur Homme at some points. Really nice!


John Galliano Eau de Parfum for Women (2008)

Just be sure to grab the right version.

Original EDP (90 ml format)

The original, early version of John Galliano (EDP, 90 ml bottle) is a fantastic, complex, incredibly well-crafted green-powdery floral scent exuding all the composition talent of Christine Nagel (which I recognized here even before knowing she was actually the nose behind this scent). Since the very first sniff, the original Galliano EDP is a harmony played around powder and balsamic notes, with a fresh, tart aromatic hint of citrus and bergamot, then green notes, soapy rose-white flowers permeated with a gorgeous sort of crystalline brightness all over, a hint of vanilla, amber, cumin, a sweet-woody note on the base, white musks, discreet chalky aldehydes. What surprises me the most here is the peculiar texture, which is really thin, transparent, somehow “grey-ish”, incredibly clean yet complex and “vertical”, with a stunning richness and deepness of notes; it is decidedly all on the “fresh-spicy-floral” side, so all rather silky, fresh and dusty (no creaminess, no “juicy” wet flowers)... at the same time, all incredibly sharp, crisp, luminous and invigorating. Apart from other Nagel’s masterworks, I also thought of L’eau de Givenchy and that kind of “fresh” green-floral scents. Violet and iris compose the powdery accord, and while the reformulated version contains more (synthetic) iris, here I actually get more violet. The drydown is impeccable, always slightly grey-ish (I guess because of aldehydes too) but at the same time crisp, balsamic, talc, halfway foggy and celestial, with a musky-powdery breeze melting with herbal-green notes. It constantly changes,yet remaining perfectly consistent. The persistence is long and close to skin. Far more discreet and refined than the subsequent version, and also more elegant, much better composed and with higher quality materials – if you want my advice, seek for this early version only (pretty easy to spot, they made it only in 90ml format, while the subsequent one was marketed in 40/60 ml bottles). Incredibly pleasant. Mandatory for all floral scents lovers (and for niche enthusiasts which snub designer scents... well, I still have to find niche floral scents which are able to stand close to this good!).


Reformulated EDP (40/60 ml format)

Now, the subsequent reformulated version - which I’ve been told was produced elsewhere, this leading to a new formula & new materials that affected the quality (boy, they did...). The opening, for instance: far bolder, more pungent, more sour than in the original version, and also at the same time more fruity and sweet. Basically: more tacky, or better say more “flashy”. By this I mean all smells richer, but an artificial, saturated, harsh and “on-steroid” kind of rich. All notes smell like if they’ve been inflated with some weird kind of gas. No trace of the discreet, complex, naturally-evolving refinement of the 90 ml EDP with its balsamic and crystalline sharpness; here's all more loud, more spicy, with a bolder and more pungent synthetic feel all over. I get quite a lot less vanilla, less flowers (and surely, far less “silky” than there). The structure is roughly the same, just all here is heavier, tackier, more synthetic and camphoraceous. Plus (but that’s not a defect), I also get a whiff of carnation here – something I didn’t get in the early version. On the drydown it’s all even more dry, artificial and synthetic, more heavy and above all terribly linear, pretty much identical to itself for hours - while the evolution of the first EDP is mutating, complex, “evolving” in its true meaning, reaching a peak of foggy-talc powdery refinement which you won’t really experience with this more recent version (that on the contrary, after three hours is still the exact same synthetic floral polaroid). Now I don’t want to overestimate the differences, the reformulated version is still decently nice... as much decent as just incomparable to the original EDP to pretty much any extent.