Fundamental by Rubini (2015)

Fundamental by Italian newcomer Rubini is meant to act as a tribute to an early 1900s “Italian Belle Epoque” inspiration, more specifically of the North-East of Italy where Rubini’s heritage is grounded, but with a contemporary, almost hyper-modern feel – as you can imagine by looking at the (supercool, and quite clever) packaging designed by Francesca Gotti (nu_be). This “past into the future” thing may sound as a cliché, and it sure is quite often; but it isn’t here. First of all because there is no generic “old Italian heritage” inspiration, but a specific geographical reference (Verona – which means shortly: wines and cafès); then because the composition totally reflects it, finally getting rid of, again, “old Italian heritage” clichés in perfumes. What you get at the first sniff is a surprisingly good and compelling grapes note that manages to smell fruity, bitter, fresh, kind of Mediterranean, really aromatic and slightly pungent, with a crisp wine vibe; while it isn’t overly and predictably “boozy”, it does provide instead a sort of domestic, almost “rural” but at the same time extremely sophisticated feel, also thanks to the silky and aromatic - and again, Mediterranean - note of sage that perfectly enhances the herbal fruitiness of grapes. Herbs and grapes in turn perfectly blend with a nostalgic kind of “eau de cologne” vibe (a thick, raw, almost “urinous” lavender note, woods, the bitter-astringent side of grapes) and a carnal powdery accord (iris) aimed at evoking the playful lasciviousness of brothels and dancing cafés (early 1900’s, again...). An overall smoky feel and a woody accord also comprising costus (rubbery feel) complete the blend – iris and costus will then remain quite bold on the drydown. I think I get something musky too but I am not sure if the note is there.

The keys for me – meaning what I get more deeply and clearly - are however grapes, lavender, sage, iris, costus. Shortly, a kind of fresh-aromatic fruity-herbal scent with a bitter and almost animalic facet, some smokier and darker nuances, a sprinkle of powdery dust. And a ton of class. If notes don’t speak to you, here’s some images to think of; vineyards, wines, gentlemen, cafès (... and women). Not over yet, though: while some notes do clearly smell “retrò”, meaning dusty and kind of “dirty”, taking you right next to a Dannunzian gentleman and his shady businesses (the dirtier side of lavender, the powdery notes), and while others smell clearly “Italian” (herbs, lavender, grapes), there is also a distinctive sort of breezy, almost metallic and kind of wet concrete-like vein (violet leaves, maybe? I think I get some really slight similarity to Narciso for Him, to this extent) that gives Fundamental a crisp texture and a sort of polished, futuristic look – a jump forward in time, the cryogenic mummy of a dandy. Modern class with a heritage feel. I am super picky with niche novelties, but this is really good; the materials smell great as far as I can tell, the concept works, the owner (Andrea) is humble and passionate. And the composition is clever and creative. One of the niche standouts of 2015 for me so far (lucky for Rubini, niche market is so depressing these days... “easy wins are easy”).


Trussardi Inside for Men by Trussardi (2006)

Nose: Nathalie Lorson

Inside Man is a keeper, and a sleeper too. I had to wear this quite a few times to “understand it”. I mean: it smells great, and you get that instantly. It’s classy, warm, discreet, really sophisticated, but there’s something else which makes you coming back again and again to your wrist to wonder what you’re smelling. My experience was like: I get it smells great, I just don’t get what this smells of. “Nondescript”, shortly, in a totally positive way. Inside Man is stoutly, sharply “woody” at first, and I mean *really* woody, in quite an uncommon and un-natural way; more like a piece of luxury polished furniture. It’s the smell of mahogany, which is really dry, dark, exotic and mysterious. On top of that, a fantastic note of coffee – dark, roasted coffee beans; nothing gourmand for sure – and smoky tobacco: not an actuall smell of smoke, not the usual sweetish artificial tobacco note, and not bare Iso E Super like in many recent “smoke” scents, but rather an unperceivable, thin, perfectly crafted feel of someone smoking near you, like a really subtle whiff of nicotine. What I meant by “nondescript” is that all these notes are really tightly connected and so well blended together in a thin texture, it’s quite hard to understand what’s behind this great piece of “mainstream” refinement. You just get this irresistible, distinctive whiff of warm, dark good taste accompanying you like a perfectly-cut suit. Slightly “generic”, but just the right amount – I don’t mind that. It just “fits” perfectly. Sillage is discreet, but long lasting. Remarkable!


Cristobal pour Homme by Balenciaga (2000)

Nose: Gerard Anthony

The opening of Cristobal Homme is fantastic: that same, unmistakable anisic-fougère structure of Azzaro pour Homme “revisited” with a modern look. Sweet, fresh, cozy, velvety, terribly solid. If you know Azzaro pour Homme, Cristobal will give you a really pleasant feel of “déja-vu”: basically here you get that “old school vibe”, mostly from citrus-anise-lavender-woods, perfectly mixed with a totally compelling “late ‘90s style”: soft creamy woods, tobacco, an overall sweet powderiness. Gerard Anthony perfectly nails it again in creating something smelling irresistibly, desperately good – with again, as for Azzaro, a stunning level of depth and quality (back when budgets for fragrances were still high...). By “smelling good” I mean something which is at the same time easy to pull off, friendly, cozy, probably crowdpleasing, yet sophisticated, refined, and totally distinctive. This is what I personally value the most in perfumery; you need talent to make distinctive “artistic” perfumes, you need talent to make versatile crowdpleasers, you need to be a perfume-making superhero to make something comprising them all this well. So uplifting and enjoyable. The “modern aromatic fougère” par excellence, warm and sweet, perfectly “modern” yet perfectly timeless, which only a nose like Anthony could accomplish. Delightful, sophisticated, versatile. Grab any bottle you can find – go, now!


Jazz Prestige by Yves Saint Laurent (1993)

Jazz Prestige is a really bizarre scent, and one of the few whose name perfectly reflects the juice. I am a big fan of jazz, and this scent is indeed “jazzy” as regards of its composition and evolution; it’s daring, creative, playful, unpredictable and most of all, with the same “clashing” structure of a free jazz improvisation. It has a really bold and perfectly crafted interplay of shades and lights, bright notes and darker nuances. What strikes me the most to this extent is the opening phase, which also perfectly integrates the “prestige” feature: an incredibly radiant, fresh, crisp and sharp green-citrus accord with breezy flowers (geranium above all) that, however, smells just deeply different from, well, any other “citrus floral accord” you may think of: not sure what it is due to, but the term that comes to my mind to describe this would be: abstract. Not in a theoretical meaning, rather I think of abstract art: it’s all just colorful, dynamic and almost chaotic, like a Pollock painting. Take a conventional citrus-herbal-floral accord, throw it in a blender, replace it there, here’s Jazz Prestige. And underneath that, a really formal, cozy and classic fougère structure as in the classic Jazz version, a “barbershop” symphony made of sandalwood, lavender, herbs, carnation spices, smoky notes, maybe a hint of leather too. The coexistence of these two “veins” – basically, “classic” and “creative” – is mindblowing. This flanker is a really precious, special and deeply creative rewriting of the original Jazz, which adds both artsy madness and a luxurious feel of golden refinement – due to the peculiar treatment of citrus-greenish flowers notes, again: crisp and clean like a freshly ironed shirt. You know what I thought of too? The “brat pack” group of novelists – McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, that group of American authors which portrayed the conflicts of the young, wealthy and spoiled generations of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, their pop luxury, their “camp” culture. Not sure why, but I feel Jazz Prestige shares the same “vibe” of many of those characters – it smells “rich”, ironical, bizarre, vibrant, almost naughty. Playing with classic notes like a postmodern composition. And I am not saying it smells like something those guys would wear; I mean more like an olfactive depiction of them. Not sure if that makes sense and surely isn’t helping much to understand this fragrance, so... just this: it smells fantastic and really – really! – ahead of its time. A true gem worth looking for.


Rudis by Nobile 1942 (2014)


Nose: Antonio Alessandria

The opening of Rudis is fairly nice, a decent boozy-wine-immortelle accord on spiced roasted leathers and woods, shortly something halfway Tango by Masque and 1740 by Histoire de Parfums (more than “halfway”, simply an uncreative, derivative hybrid between these and a couple of others). Not that creative, and quite much “trendy” considering how vastly this boozy-leather-immortelle thing has been exploited in niche; but still “better than nothing” as the saying goes – as long as it smells nice, I am fine with being plain trendy and uninspired. The notes smell quite dull and a bit cheap though, surely not the deepest, thickest and most fascinating texture around, but again... not the worst you can stumble upon, especially if you’re familiar with Antonio Alessandria style. I would expect something outstanding given this is “niche”, the élite of the élite, but nevermind. The main issue here, and in this case it’s so severe I consider it a total deal-breaker, is how weak, light, unsubstantial this scent is. After literally 15-20 minutes it melts down like snow under the sun, leaving you with a subtle, depressing leathery drydown which you would legitimately expect after 6 hours – not 20 bloody minutes. A vague, faint boozy safraleine drydown. Which has actually *no* drydown, as it just goes away after a couple of hours. Now... I would accept this if it was about a light, green, crisp citrus “haiku” à la Ellena; but how on Earth can one think to make a “bold boozy leather” this way? It’s like trying to sell boxing gloves made of omelette. “Rudis”? Bold and courageous like an anemic underweight teenager. Not giving a complete “no” just because for 20 minutes it smells nice.


Narciso Rodriguez for Him by Narciso Rodriguez (2007)

Narciso Rodriguez for Him is a mainstream gem, and an unnecessary evidence of how Francis Kurkdjian works so better on commission (who’s the least fan of his own “cheap-luxury” brand? Me). Anyway: the opening is fantastic and unmistakable, a leafy, dark, astringent “greenish wet concrete” which smells of pungent humid darkness – a moldy, harsh, filthy kind of urban darkness, with a genius hint of dry lipstick. Despite it is a designer scent aimed (one may guess) at a broad audience, it delivers an incredibly gloomy and funereal mood, really fascinating and terribly well executed: a gothic, crunchy, really bitter violet leaves note on dark, dry patchouli and an aloof, musky “grey concrete” note. Pure poison for a quite simple composition which however is iconic and really unique, smelling like lipstick, dead leaves, vitriol, wet streets. A “post-modern” world which makes you think of those alienating metropolitan areas just at the very borders of the suburbs, where abandoned warehouses meet abandoned woods – you’re not yet into “pure nature”, but out of civilization already. Narciso smells of all of that. Which makes it surprisingly “niche” (I said that in a positive meaning for once), far more than all the dozens of depressing, uninspired overpriced bullshit which make their way to niche price tags. Not a crowpleaser for sure, but safe enough somehow; it is dark but terribly refined and sophisticated. It makes a “statement” so it’s definitely one to try before buying; but I wouldn’t really consider this daring or weird. It’s perfectly compelling, just a bit dark with a sprinkle of freakness. The only flaw I would mention would be maybe its objective quality, meaning that in my opinion the materials here aren’t exactly top notch – especially on the drydown, which is quite linear, a bit cheap, and maybe boring after some hours. But who cares for once – this is evocative, even its “cheapness” may have a creative role here, as in fact we’re talking about concrete and dead leaves – nothing fancy and nothing luxurious. A real gem, if it was discontinued it would be praised like a holy grail.