Carven pour Homme by Carven (2014)

Nose: Francis Kurkdjian and Patricia Choux.

Carven pour Homme, which has little to do with Carven Homme from 1999 (I won’t say “nothing at all” though), perfectly nails the intent Carven expressed about this new launch. I read on the press they aimed at offering an unpretentious, discreet yet elegant, quality and pleasant everyday scent for “a brother and a soulmate” or something like that, shortly they seemed uninterested in referencing to more trite marketing themes behind most of masculine fragrances (women, seduction, sport cars, yuppie douches having a swim ecc.), tending more to offering a crisp scent for a man who just wanto to smell nice for himself. Now, they nailed all that because Carven pour Homme is indeed – and sadly, nothing more that – a really decent, pleasant, lively and versatile woody fragrance with a subtle hint of creative distinction, mostly lying in Kurkdjian’s signature note of orangle blossoms. Nearly unperceivable, but it’s there and provides a touch of zest, a slightly “feminine” pastel sweetness to an otherwise classy but kind of dull 30-something office-safe look – an aromatic blend of wood, spices, violet: you can easily guess how this may smell, pick any mainstream woody scent from the recent years. That ephemeral and quickly-vanishing floral-orange whiff is still obviously not enough to make Carven pour Homme something significantly more interesting than a really conventional yet quality sweet-spicy woody-violet fragrance, but it surely adds a touch of interest. Overall I admit that this fragrance smells more quality and more natural than others: you won’t feel wearing the most creative scent around, but you will feel and smell really nice. Probably pointless if you’re a collector owning dozens of (probably superior) fragrances, but a well worthy option if you’re not that into perfumes and are just looking for a new signature scent. So yes, I can’t say I dislike this: maybe “nicely mediocre” and maybe slightly overpriced for the quality, but still solid and probably one of the safest and nicest “perfect gifts” for brothers, dads and boyfriends.


P.S.: No similarity with either Cool Water or Green Irish Tweed for me, it’s obviously the same league in broad terms, but there’s very little room for comparison

Insensé by Givenchy (1993)

Ah, the Nineties...

Nose: Daniel Molière

Insensé is one of the many fragrances I shamefully underrated for a long time, I guess for my lack of experience and proper taste. I always misjudged this in the past, always trying it quickly from samples or decants, and always ending up in considering it only a really nice albeit a bit boring and kind of heavy sort of “overly feminine fougère”; I am really glad I grabbed a deal recently and got a small 30 ml bottle of this some days ago, so that I had the chance to wear this at its fullest and give it a proper chance. And I got, as they say, a true “epiphany” about this – from mild enthusiasm to sudden devoted worshipping. It is indeed the hyped masterpiece many rave about, and the hype is fully justified. Actually, no, it even gets way less hype than it should. For me, Insensé has now jumped straight on top of the – however limited – chart of the best floral fragrances for men ever made, because it is hands down one of the best, if not the best one ever. And easily among the best masculine offerings in general ever made. Luca Turin once mentioned two key features of this, which perfectly reflect what I also strongly felt while full wearing this the first time: “melancholy and mystery”. It is exactly how I also view Insensé: this a dramatically romantic, rich and slightly decadent scent which stunningly blends decades of masculine and feminine perfumery in an enigmatic, completely new, clever, breathtakingly creative and above all, irresistibly good unisex floral blend. Which indeed smells mysteriously “different” from anything else. Like a prism, it reflects echoes of perfumes ranging from Cristalle, to Diorella, to Caron’s 3rd Man.

The smell is complex but seamlessly beautiful: there is a rich heart symphony of green herbs and flowers refreshed by a subtle fruit-pine breeze, contrasting a deeply dark, smoky base accord of woods and aldehydes which provide “weight” and baroque gloominess to flowers and herbs. The overall feel is soapy, smoky, lightly waxy, aldehydic to the bone, floating between a nostalgic green-chypre powderiness and a fresher, more austere balsamic-woody feel of many classic fougères. Not simply a juxtaposition of different styles, just a true rewriting using selected key notes and accords from all those inspirations. It may sound simple or boring, it’s definitely not: as I said it’s truly a sort of triumphant gathering of decades of perfumery blending together to compose this incredibly handsome, unique mosaic. Distinctive, bracing and sophisticated in a quite peculiar, decadent way to say the least, probably also quite “gothic” to a certain extent: surely “not for the faint of heart”. Totally worthy the high prices. Leave that shitty niche boutique and save your money for this.


P.S.: obviously I refer to the vintage version of Insensé (pictured above).

Aquaman by Rochas (2001)

Nose: Jacques Cavallier

I would have never thought I would have liked this, but as they say, one must never judge the book by its cover. And that applies in particular with perfumes. So don’t get fooled by the lame superhero name, the kind of cheap (yet wonderfully handy and ergonomic) bottle, the shiny blue colour, and overall that juvenile MTV Summer Chart kind of esthetics. The fragrance is way more complex, darker and fascinating than it may seem. And above all, phew! - it smells really nice. To my nose Aquaman is an extremely pleasant Mediterranean blend of aromatic notes of grass, balsamic-green “dark” herbs (like sage and olive tree leaves, that kind of “dark”, dry, aromatic greenness), something slightly floral-anisic on the barbershop side (lavender or similar, or maybe sage again) pepper, nutmeg and a spicy-woody base. Shortly an aromatic fougère brilliantly translated into summer-aquatic terms but using balsamic-herbal “words” instead of calone or fruits, slightly close to Fendi Thereoma Uomo's kind of league but more catchy than that. All smells unexpectedly true-to-life (I won’t say “natural”, but I don’t get anything particularly synthetic-metallic), and also surprisingly “watery” indeed, albeit in a more unusual way: a sort of humid, sultry muskiness which does indeed convey a feel of luke warm azure water. Nothing salty and nothing “ozonic”, rather a liquid, somehow even dark smell of condensation water stuffed with bracing balsamic-peppery-herbal nuances. Nothing heavy though.

What I enjoy the most here and what actually led me to consider this fragrance with more attention is that Aquaman has just a really good sillage, something inexplicably pleasant to feel around you, slightly different from what you smell close to skin. It’s like a whiff of extremely realistic “medicinal balsamicness” you feel around yourself. Truly nice. For some reasons this smells way more herbal and Mediterranean than many other fragrances clearly associated to that inspiration – and at the same time, it has very little to do with the “synthetic aquatic family” it can be easily compared to judging by the bottle and the esthetic. I like these little gems hiding these nice unexpected surprises. I think Aquaman can still be found for cheap, so if you’re looking for a less generic option for something fresh and balsamic, give this a chance. You’ll smell nice and (fairly) different.


Underrated cheapos: R by Revillon (1995)

Nose (apparently): Maurice Roucel

R by Revillon is indeed the little gem one may assume by reading the reviews. I still haven’t clear what makes it so nice, but well, it is. Basically it is a really clean, pleasantly conventional, decidedly 1990’s scent with a touch of distinction and a truly respectable quality. For this price, I’d dare to say this is probably the best “bang for the buck” you’ll ever find. This is a perfectly compelling and quite remarkable “true fragrance” with the price of a shitty deodorant. A smooth masculine fragrance revolving around crisp woods, tart herbs, a hint of smooth leather, an Oriental spicy accord, a subtle and terribly pleasant sweet-powdery note, something resinous and slightly green (green I mean here “pine” green) floating on the background providing a sort of watery-balsamic feel. Perfect subtle barbershop-like drydown, woody and slightly powdery with still a hint of classy leather. Overall R ranges from balsamic to spicy and woody, mostly focusing on delivering a feel of “ balmy effortless cleanliness”. This places it among the great masculine classics meant for men to splash generously after a shave or a shower: nothing avantgarde, nothing overly “sexy”, nothing meant to rule the club and steal the ladies to other ill-scented boys. Just something to smell good – in its highest meaning - and elegant, echoing Hardy Amies’ golden rule of mens’ elegance (“a man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”). Which is by no means something “easy” to accomplish, and that’s what makes R by Revillon a precious little gem. If Roucel really composed this, well, no surprise. Revillon deserves all respect for making such a nice scent at such a honest price. Probably my irrelevant final mark is higher than it should, but who cares, I can’t help loving and supporting the ridiculously cheap price and the understated attitude of this fragrance.


Pierre Guillaume: La Collection Croisière (2015) - Part I

Among the boatloads of crap I've tested at the Esxence tradeshow a month ago or so, I wasn't able to give a proper sniff to this new line by the unnecessarily prolific French perfumer Pierre Guillaume. I've got the samples later from a friend. Here's my take on the first 4 scents of the line - other 4 will land in perfume shops around September, a "Part II" relating to this post will hopefully come by then (I briefly smelled them at Esxence and I only recall a hilariously bad leather-asphalt scent).


And here’s the only other decent scent from this half-baked new line by Pierre Guillaume (the other was Long Courrier – which I honestly prefer way over this, see below). Straight to the point, Jangala is decent at least for the first couple of hours, for two main and kind of obvious reasons: it smells nice until it can, and it is fairly creative. If making a “creative rewriting” of tropical-aquatic clichés was the aim of this new line, Jangala almost made it. Definition-wise this would be in my opinion a sort of green-fruity-woody scent with a mineral-watery texture, like pretty much any other of this line, but this and Long Courrier are basically the only ones able to add something to it - something I can’t honestly define. I think it simply “works” and succeeds in avoiding any “tropical shower gel/sun cream” effect. There is a bitter-sweet juxtaposition going on which makes Jangala really intriguing at first: something lightly sugary, plushy and pleasantly creamy (coconut, sandalwood) perfectly coexisting with a fresher, sharper, slightly pungent balsamic-citric sour top accord, both embracing a cozy and exotic “tropical” blend of ginger, herbs (that olive leaves thing), something floral, woods and fruity notes (I guess still coconut and the rest of the pyramid) with a decided ozonic-metallic and weightless “glassy” vibe that keeps it all on the fresh-watery and “grey-azure” side. Nothing overly exotic or weird, as it nearly reminds me of some ginger-woody masculine designers (from Envy to YSL L’Homme) with a brighter, coconut-balsamic-breezy twist. But still, fun and fascinating overall.

Besides working fine, I also like how Guillaume managed to keep the blend seemingly natural making a clever use of materials, at least for the initial phase (long enough to convince retailers and distributors at tradeshows to get some stocks, I guess). Sadly though, all of that you just read works for me for a couple of hours, before Jangala starts collapsing into a sort of cheaper, harshly pungent citronnel-infused woody-ozonic-herbal drydown now showing the actual quality of some components (in other words, smelling a bit more openly synthetic and flat). Still not completely bad, but well... Surely worse than it seemed at first for me. Despite this, personally I would still consider Jangala an interesting, decently creative and almost solid “watery balsamic coconut cocktail” with a disappointing – not hideous, just disappointing - drydown. Still surely among the best you can get in this genre – just keep reapplying it and avoid the crap drydown.



Paris Seychelles

To cut it short, Paris Seychelles lazily and mutely follows the endless, cheaper line of green-white floral scents with a “milky sun cream” vibe, starting from Jil Sander’s Sun, ending with any 0,99 pennies sun cream. That’s it, and it adds nothing to that: the floral notes smell boringly “white” with no particularly features of interest, the same for coconut and the green notes. Flat, cheaply glossy, annoyingly plastic. I’d rate this higher if it wasn’t for its hilariously pretentious price, but I can’t really judge fragrances “per se” without taking into account the cost. This costs 160 EUR while it’s rather something a tasteless Texan lady with a penchant for “Fràààànce” may actually buy at the Seychelles - for 10 EUR at the local airport’s duty free with a complimentary daisy chain.



Entre Ciel et Mer

The name fits the scent, in the least fascinating meaning possible. There is indeed a salty aquatic base, and there is a decided “airy” breezy-green feel well completed by pastel, slightly creamy notes of fruits and something musky similar to ambergris. I also get some floral notes which I don’t see in the composition, like ylang and lys, but maybe they’re just some side-nuances of some whatever aromachemicals have been used here. The problem for me is that, briefly put, anything here in my opinion smells flat, synthetic and uninspired. By this I mean – and I really mean that, no exaggeration – that I personally smell no big difference with any “sea-fruity-floral” shower gel or deodorant, to any extent; the notes, the concept, the composition, the quality on skin. This is precisely more or less what pretty much any “insert cheap sea-exotic name here” shower gel leaves on your skin. Up to you to decide if the 150 eur price gap is enough to justify a bit more sillage and longevity.



... and yes, after all, we've a winner:

Long Courrier

Easily the nicest scent for me among these four new offerings of “La Collection Croisière” by Guillaume, together with Jangala. For three main reasons: it smells nice, quality, and creative. Basically Long Courrier is a really peculiar sort of talc-powdery “fresh” gourmand with a salty-aquatic texture, which manages to blend brilliantly all the nicest features of all these diverse inspirations; the dusty, nutty and masterfully tamed down sweetness of a gourmand (mostly cacao here) which bears also a really light sort of boozy-almondy note, then an evocative and totally compelling watery-aquatic feel, and cozy talc-amber-floral powderiness which connects Long Courrier to the great tradition of Oriental powdery scents, from Villoresi’s Teint de Neige to Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant, with a subtle “guerlinade” underneath providing an elegant touch of classicism to the overall laid-back “sunny exoticism” of this scent. Now imagine this, with a truly remarkable watery texture that is basically limited to an aqueous-salty-musky note, subtle but more than enough to change the entire mood and bring in a “seaside” feel, pleasantly refreshing the musky-powdery-gourmand side. And giving it a truly unique look. The whole blend smells really classy, much distinctive and cleverly composed, and it also shows a really nice evolution which slowly brings Long Courrier to a woodier, drier territory. The sillage is quite discreet, which is good, but the persistence seems a bit too short for me. Still overpriced for me even taking into account it is a nice scent, but bottle-worthy in case of (massive) discounts.


Rive Gauche pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent (2003)

Nose: Jacques Cavallier

Like Turin wrote in his guide, “it took guts to come out with an aromatic fougère in 2003”: it did, indeed, as Rive Gauche pour Homme is truly a jump into the Seventies. Not a “rewritten tribute”, but a veritable, extremely elegant and pleasantly pedantic aromatic fougère exactly as they made (plenty of) them thirty years ago. Something I like to see as a proud and shameless slap to contemporary trends, which is admirable from such a big important company. It makes a statement, which at that level of visibility, may truly mean something. While I usually can’t stand fragrances - especially niche - which are “inspired by” and/or plain rip off chypres and fougères but they try to conceal that by acting new, “cool”, “luxury” and avantgarde as if they were ashamed of smelling derivative, too simple and “too outdated” as they do, I can’t help but appreciating an open and genuine operation like this. There’s a big difference in fact. Rive Gauche pour Homme is the quintessence of nostalgic simplicity, smelling and looking openly outdated, declaring it loud and proud. Many other companies still produce very classic fragrances, but to launch a new one, again – “it takes guts”.

All here is a true time capsule from the past, from the fragrance itself to the unpretentious, functional and almost cheap-looking bottle which looks like a drugstore shave foam can out of the 1970’s. The fragrance, anyway: lavender, anise, green herbs, woods, oak moss, patchouli, carnation, a nephew of Azzaro pour Homme looking and acting exactly like his hero uncle, just younger. The skin is softer and paler, the voice is still a bit juvenile, everything’s more light-hearted and livelier, but the face, the look, the style, it’s all the same. This is Rive Gauche pour Homme: a fougère which combines a lighter modern look, an overall obvious “fresher” feel due to its young age (I mean lacking in the “vintage” feel caused by the aging of the juice), with a vintage quality. It doesn’t aim at be a masterpiece, and in fact it isn’t, but it’s an extremely pleasant and stylish fragrance retrieving the true purpose of a man’s perfume – smell good, confident, mannered, masculine. Dry and dark as most of classic men’s fougères, but the “aromatic” side comprising powdery-floral notes of lavender and anise keeps it bright enough. Obviously a nostalgic redundant product thirty years late on its reference trend, but totally irresistible. The Kaspar Hauser of fragrances.