Balmain Homme by Balmain (2015)

Nose: Olivier Pescheux

The very first two thoughts I had when I tried this: it’s pretty much exactly how you can imagine it by reading the notes, and it definitely “smells Interparfums”. They must really use the same materials over and over, because I get here the exact same notes I get in many other scents made by this company – e.g. some St. Dupont’s, or Paul Smith’s. But well, it isn’t really an issue for me as long as they smell fine, and most of them did or do for me. There’s something “dusty”, smooth, smoky- powdery in most of their textures, which I quite like. Balmain Homme also strongly reminds me of a mainstream fragrance I can’t identify at the moment; I sprayed 1 Million on my other arm just to see if it may have been that since it has been named somewhere as a close comparison to Balmain Homme, but it’s not that – it does not really have much to do with Balmain’s in fact. Nearly nothing (phew!). I am quite sure it may be Versace Eros on the contrary, as I get here the same sort of “soapy spicy sweetness” due to tonka, cedar and musk. But that’s the only similarity, as Balmain Homme smells different for the rest. Another reference that I thought of is – fun enough – discontinued Balman by Balmain; it was sweeter, more “creatively” synthetic and less smoky, but I see a clear connection. Anyway as I said the notes are quite faithful: the opening is really nice, fresh and almost tea-like, I get mostly violet (synthetic sharp-soapy violet), tonka, cedar, musk, some other smooth spices (nutmeg for sure), something almost fruity, and just some really mannered, almost unperceivable and smooth polished leather as in most of recent “trendy leathers”.

A fresh-sweet-smoky Oriental fragrance for “urban” young fellas; it smells clean, quite synthetic (not an issue for me), decidedly mainstream, but undoubtedly decent and elegantly versatile. It’s actually quite nice to be honest, it has an enjoyable feel of bright spicy cleanliness which I quite like, blending quite nicely fresh notes and smokier ones; and if you make the effort of putting aside prejudices against “generic mainstreams”, you’ll also think of some niche scents if that’s a plus for you (a couple of Parfums de Marly came to my mind, and several “weightless” violet-leather scents). Nothing extremely sophisticated or particularly “masculine” in a more mature meaning, and surely nothing particularly interesting for perfume collectors and enthusiasts (unlike the other couple of Balmain fragrances for men), except if you’re looking for some “easy” alternatives in your more fulfilling connoisseur’s rotation; rather something generically “cool”, pleasant, safe, pedantically conforming to mainstream current trends, and really easy to wear. No contraindications, no unpleasant side-effects. Which is what designer fragrances are mostly designed for, so there’s little to blame here. It’s quite powerful too, the projection is remarkable and so is the persistence. So shortly nothing memorable but a decent, unpretentious, slightly overpriced candidate for a “signature scent” for 20-25 something guys (or handsome, Dorian Gray-esque young-looking 30-something’s as myself).


Bentley for Men Intense by Bentley (2013)

Nose: Nathalie Lorson

Bentley for Men intense is ridicolously good. Breathtakingly good, the kind of good which makes you feel there’s still hope for perfumery – both niche and designer, as Intense easily stands above most of both – and it is somehow rooted into both. As other reviewers noted in fact, it brilliantly takes its inspiration from Idole de Lubin for all the exotic boozy-woody stuff, a couple of Tauer perfumes (I strongly agree with L’air du Désert Marocain reference in particular, I clearly smell almost the exact same base of tasty spicy ambroxan for a while), and Amouage’s Jubilation XXV. I would also add Gucci pour Homme I, not because of the notes (even if I get some subtle similarities) but because of a sort of common ground of dark, breezy and understated woody-incense elegance which so far, basically only Gucci pour Homme I itself was able to express at its best – and now, Bentley does it too. Intense is decidedly darker, though: it’s boozy, peppery and leathery with a genius aromatic breeze of greenish, fougère-like notes of bay leaves and a hint of cocoa-like patchouli (think Lutens’ Borneo 1834), but as for many fragrances by Nathalie Lorson, showing an irresistible sort of dusty, weightless resinous-talc texture making it smell discreet, warm, slightly sweet and extremely sophisticated. Also slightly fruity too.

And for once, the “concept” and the skills of the nose are supported by a decent budget, as this smells clearly a great quality fragrance also from the point of view of the materials. It is rich (despite being unobtrusively “thin”), deep, vibrant, it has a brilliant evolution from the sharp boozy-leathery-patchouli opening (the leather in particular is really good here for me – Amouage-like, again) to a fantastic amber-incense drydown with sweet echoes of benzoin, leather and talc. It is really mannered and refined, at the same time totally safe and versatile, almost close to skin as a proper classy scent should wear, but long lasting. My expectations were quite high given the praise by a couple of “key” reviewers for me, but it easily surpassed them, and I think Bentley and Firmenich couldn’t really do better than this. Well to cut it short I can’t say better what other reviewers already said – this is easily one of the very best fragrances of the last decade, period. Apparently the prices dropped as I paid 40 eur/100 ml on a French website, and that’s a steal for such a great fragrance.


Un Homme by Charles Jourdan (1980)

Nose: Françoise Caron

Un Homme by Charles Jourdan is an extremely solid, charming and well-made aromatic fougère for men clearly in the same league of Azzaro pour Homme, playing pretty much the exact same main key notes – anisic-powdery notes of lavender and sage on green, flowery-mossy woods. But there’s a twist unique enough to make it worthy having; it smells basically like a sort of wilder, darker, grassier version of Azzaro. “Wilder” not because it is more aggressive or louder, actually in fact it smells really mannered and classy; but because it has some really vibrant, natural quality which makes it really close to the actual smell of wet grass and freshly-cut green branches, also with a nondescript sort of “cloudy” feel, evoking a tense gust of air before a storm. Also spicier and dirtier, with bold notes of cloves and patchouli that provide weight to a feel of subtle dark leather that will gain more and more strength as time passes. So imagine Azzaro pour Homme in its utmost vintage splendour, just wrapped in leather and wet grass. Azzaro pour Homme “The Kinky Gardener Edition”. I also agree to references other reviewers made – Captain Molyneux, Oscar de la Renta pour Lui, Krizia Uomo... dark-green aromatic fougères, that’s the family and Jourdan surely sits on the top of it. Brilliant!


HM by Hanae Mori (1997)

Nose: unknown (to me)

HM by Hanae Mori, not to be confused with the way inferior HiM, is for me hands down one of the most quality and most interesting cheapos ever. It screams fun, versatility, creativity and quality from every side. It is a really playful and quite unique blend of notes which smells at the same time complex and this close to messy, but completely compelling and solid like a really well engineered motor. The key notes which support the composition are citrus, lavender, vanilla and cocoa beans: the zesty freshness of citrus notes, the “masculine” touch of classic lavender, and a gourmand creamy warmth of chocolate and vanilla. There’s many other notes providing depth and “colour” (e.g. spices, something powdery, other herbs, musk), most of which I can’t detect further, but to me it seems these four notes stand out and provide the bone structure of HM. Which is totally brilliant and plain irresistible, as it is at the same time fresh, warm, sweet, creamy but “manly”, there’s dark mellow nuances perfectly balanced with playful fresh top notes and a touch of sweet creaminess.

“Fun” is the word that keeps coming to my head: HM smells happy, lively, fresh and sweet but in no way sweetish or childish, or tacky. It’s like a nice classy comedy movie (say, the funniest Woody Allen’s), which can be hilarious and witty but also totally solid and smart from the point of view of writing and direction (contrary to, say, “teen comedy movies” which may be fun, but technically pure cinematographic crap). HM is quite that, merry and carefree but really solid and “serious” composition/quality-wise. Plus anyway it smells just great, and I am sure I never smelled something so perfectly balancing freshness and warmth, sweet/creamy notes and darker/drier stuff (the kind of composition so many niche scents try to emulate on a regular basis, with half the success and three times the price). It changes a lot, continuously floating between sweet creaminess and freshness, slowly evolving from a more citrus-lavender centered blend, to a more prominent role of vanilla, then switching back to lavender as main character. Lasting crisp and clear for hours. More than just versatile it is purely eclectic. I can imagine anyone pulling this off in any situation, which is nearly the greatest achievement for a fragrance for me. A total steal for the price.


P.S.: review based on the EDT version.

Anubis by Papillon Artisan Perfumes (2014)


Nose: Liz Moores

Double boring alert – for the fragrance, and for my review. Anubis by Papillon is a balsamic suede-incense scent infused with a pleasant, albeit hilariously dull sort of classic floral chypre bone-structure; jasmine, benzoin, something vanillic on the very base, and a hint of something boozy which may be just a side-effect of resins and jasmine. Shortly a soft leather scent with a classic vibe, sort of a hybrid between contemporary suede scents à la Cuir Ottoman by Parfum d’Empire crossed with any cheap resinous/myrrh fragrance and topped with that hipster “neo-chypre” wave which seems in fashion lately (Bogue etc.). Sadly, kind of taking the worse features of both. You can easily imagine how this smells then; artisanal, boozy, slightly “carnal” and animalic, at the same pleasantly balsamic, inoffensively leathery, terribly déjà-vu as regards of the materials used, with a whole palpable feel of velvety floral darkness smelling as much pedantic as enjoyable. It is decently wearable, but for the price, the quality seems really mild for me, not to say mediocre. I get a lot of cheap nuances out of Anubis, and in general - and again, as in so many other similar indie scents - the texture and the depth seem really dull for me. Shortly: completely lacking in creativity, and not even that nice aside from that.

I smell here the exact same issue I smell in other trendy leather-chypresque recent scents; it decently emulates some leathery chypre for some 20-30 minutes, then it’s all a rapid descent into flatness, and cheapness. Like a sort of attempt, or an exercise to create a certain type of fragrance with way insufficient materials and talent. Don’t get me wrong, this smells nice, the kind of “congrats for your final essay” nice, which for the price is beyond preposterous. It seems we’re getting used to pay 5 star prices for inconsistent amateurish exercises, and given the hype they get, no surprises that any novice feels launching any concoction he or she manages to put together. Just get any Molinard Habanita and the likes (even current: mentioning vintages would be really like shooting fish in a barrel here), half the price and ten times the quality of this clumsily derivative stuff.


Very Valentino for Men by Valentino (1999)

Nose: Harry Fremont
Year: 1999

Very Valentino is an extremely compelling, refined and classic – almost old-school - fragrance for men, excelling both in quality and class. It is sadly discontinued and seems pricey these days, I won’t take the responsibility to encourage you to spend too much for this (it’s really good for me, but not a masterpiece) but if you happen to find some nice deals, then it’s worth it, even blind. At first it may resemble to many other masculine designers from the late 1990s-early 2000s, as the bolder initial notes are basically sandalwood, lavender, resins and something slightly floral on the “dark” greenish side (carnation), so think of a sort of sweet-aromatic Oriental blend mostly centered on woods and lavender – like many others, as I said. But at the same time, a couple of features make it clear there’s much more, and more unique, going on; first, the quality of the materials seems to me decidedly higher than in the average mainstreams. It’s hard to explain why, it’s a matter of richness, texture, nuances which are most of the times completely absent in cheaper concoctions. It’s that same fulfilling feel many vintages give you, contrary to the boring flatness of many contemporary scents. Then, I think the composition is really accurate and clever, if not almost outstanding: the notes smell clear, neat, quality, some of them are even contrasting yet the blend is impressively tight and consistent. Dark and refined, but also sweet and gentle. Discreetly safe, but unique. One of those (rare) scents you can wear and forget about them, or keep sniffing them to enjoy nuances and transitions – something you can’t really do with cheap stuff.

Sweet, almost “candied” ambery resins brilliantly give weight and warmth to a really enjoyable and breezy top accord of aromatic herbs, something minty-anisic, the bitter-floral greenness of carnation, the masculine whiff of classic lavender enhanced by sage. Dark and bright, classic but modern. Tobacco is a key note here, and for once it’s a really crisp and substantial “real” tobacco note, leafy and earthy, the mellow, dry, “virile” aroma of grounded tobacco (and not that idiotic, juvenile sweet nonsense so many “tobacco” fragrances are entirely based on). Probably the best mainstream tobacco note I’ve ever experienced. The drydown comprises an amazing transition towards a darker, earthier blend more centered on mellow amber, lavender, a (quite conventional) musky base, smooth dry woods (something really aromatic and slightly exotic, part sandalwood and part something else I can’t detect) and tobacco. Even if the notes are different, I keep thinking of Gérard Anthony style, especially Azzaro pour Homme and Cristobal Homme by Balenciaga, with also some connections with vintage Hermès Equipage. I think there’s quite something in common with all of them (probably tobacco and the masculine aromatic-anisic fougère notes of lavender and sage). By Man by D&G? Sure a bit of that too, incomparably better here. Full support, and shame on Valentino for discontinuing this. And now for the bad news... The persistence is a bit crap. It doesn’t last that long, and it is quite a skin scent. But this is sophisticated mature stuff to enjoy intimately, so that fits the style of the fragrance. Recommended!


Crap mainstream/designers roundup

I have a penchant for mainstreams, but still...

(sorry, no bottle pics - just this for all)

In Leather Man by Etienne Aigner (2003)

In Leather Man by Aigner is hands down the worst leather fragrance I’ve ever tried. Even taking into account the really cheap price, for me it is still just desperately obnoxious, and completely unworthy any price. It opens with a harsh, extremely artificial nondescript smell which I think should be aimed at evoking leather, while it clumsily smells more like a car under the sun – not a particularly rusty or dirty one, just a normal car with that really boring smell of plastic, metal, rubber, cheap imitation leather. I think I get some musk, some components similar to what other manufacturers know better how to use for leather accords, and something ambery; it may sound decent, but the result is just a disaster for me. It’s not leather – actually for me this is really nothing at all. The drydown arrives quickly, light and sweaty. Until now I used to consider as the “worst leather fragrances” the ones which just uncreatively reiterate the same usual aromachemicals (e.g. suederal, safraleine ecc.), but at least, they smell “leather”. This smells just nauseating nonsense for me. If you want to stick to this brand (God knows why) I recall Aigner Black being a little more decent and more similar to an actual leather scent.



1000 Miglia for Men by Chopard (2013)

The composition seemed interesting to me, especially that promising “asphalt-suede” combo, so I approached this with slightly more enthusiasm than usual, although I am not really a fan of Chopard fragrances, and well, I was wrong – in being slightly more enthusiastic than usual, I mean. Utter cheapness and boredom in a bottle. The opening comprises mostly a contemporary aromatic fougère bone structure of wood, lavender, citrus scented with tobacco, some subtle smell of coffee, a dusty-sweet feel (amber and violet) and a little sad suede aromachemical lying in the shame corner. 1000 miglia reminds me of a cheaper, subtler, more boring version of woody-coffee scents like Rochas Man crossed with Lanvin’s Arpège pour Homme and similar “violet woodyambers”; just more generic, with more lavender, more (depressingly synthetic) wood, a bit more zest, a hint of green. Basically a dull, slightly confused and more generic version of both (or similar ones) with a persistent sort of soapy-musky-woody feel drowned in plastic. Tragically uninspired, too cheap to be at least “mediocrely refined”, one of those scents you have to sniff constantly to remind how they smell, and probably regret having bought them. Plenty of better options for this non-genre.



Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein (1990)

Desperately bad on every level. Basically a musky citrus-lavender fragrance smelling like a fizzy warm burp after drinking cheap Limoncello. Deadly everlasting persistence. Gross and discomforting.



Dunhill Black by Alfred Dunhill (2008)

A really bland and sharp woody-violet fragrance mostly built on musky notes, synthetic cedar, something slightly fruity reminding me of blackcurrant, a subtle minty head accord and not much else. Nothing “black” for sure, the mood is rather bright and cold. Tons of other similar designers come to mind, but while most of them at least try to smell different, Black instead feels so lazily generic it almost smells like an archetype of woody-violet fragrances. The strong feel of harsh synthetic cheapness doesn’t really help – adding the “unpleasant” to the “boring” factor.



Agua de Loewe by Loewe (2000)

I’ve tried hard to be patient and wait the obnoxious opening to change into something more agreeable, but I really can’t. I mean, I did, but just for your information – it is not really worth it. I don’t believe that much in “skin chemistry” variations but I guess I should start to, because unlike other reviewers experienced, the first minutes of Agua de Loewe are hideous on me. A painful journey through a horrific harsh accord of heavily pungent and synthetic citrus notes, something oddly spicy-nutty, something musky-watery-stale and a really unpleasant whiff of orange, vanilla and maybe sandalwood, adding a hint of nauseous aromatic warmth to that screechy mess. These latter notes would be even nice themselves, but it’s like smelling a slice of pie while you are in the middle of a stomach flu. Loud, plastic – “wrong”, shortly. And bloody haunting like your own shadow. Then, after a while it naturally starts to tone down a bit, entering a more enjoyable phase in which it still smells cheap, but at least it does it more smoothly and discreetly. Also, it smells progressively less citrusy and more woody-herbal-tea still with a whiff of orange and musk, and a general “fresh” feel. A bit more decent, still kind of loud and a bit cheap, however unworthy the first nightmare phase for me. Don’t bother.



Contradiction for Men by Calvin Klein (1998)

For me, Contradiction for Men has always been one of the several epitomes of “insignificance in a bottle”. But the main flaw here is not even the uncreative dullness, which is still perfectly acceptable as not all audiences need creative stuff; rather the quite evident cheap quality of the fragrance itself. Not tragically cheap, but quite cheap for me. Basically this is a fresh, office/gym/club-safe citrus-woody-musk fragrance playing some modern chords on a traditional “eau de cologne” scheme, with a slight balminess and a painful similarity to a window detergent, sitting halfway smelling “almost pleasantly natural” and “annoyingly synthetic” – far enough from both qualities though, sitting in the exact nonsense middle between them. Neither an “avantgarde synthetic fragrance” (which may likely smell crap, but that would be post-modernly “ironic”), surely nor a particular true to life and natural one. Just exactly the worst type of mall/drugstore fragrance trying to emulate some sort of natural notes with really cheap materials. Which makes Contradiction almost a bit tacky, as it does not show even some slight sort of generic understated cleanliness. It is actually rather bold on the contrary; that would be a plus, if the smell was nice. And quality aside, the fragrance isn’t still worthy any attention for me, as I find this just plain dull and indistinguishable from dozens of others – likely better – lemon-woody-musk fragrances. Perfectly interchangeable with any of them, and chances are for the better. I am a big fan of designer fragrances so this is not really a matter of being mainstream, just plain negligible regardless of the label.



La Nuit de l'Homme by Yves Saint Laurent (2009)

La nuit de who? This is la nuit de le 12 years old sipping a Diet Coke and smoking puff cigarettes. A disappointing, juvenile and cheap lavender-cardamom-woody-tobacco “club scent” smelling like YSL L’Homme layered with Declaration, Lanvin Avantgarde and/or Armani Code, inexplicably relating “night” with a bright, sweetish, teenish vibe. Lasting like a fart - which is good, though: the barely-perceivable drydown is almost enjoyable. If “ladies love this” then either I don’t understand a thing about women or we agree to disagree on the concept of “ladies”. Meh!



Eau Parfumée au The Vert Extreme by Bvlgari (1996)

I am not familiar with the original edition of The Vert, which seems quite appreciated. All I know is that this Extreme version smells... this close to a nightmare, for me. I get a really little “tea” note out of this, but it’s entirely drowned in an unbearably plastic and harsh blend with coriander and cardamom above all, something citrusy, something synthetically greenish and a bunch of really pungent spices. And just other stuff I can’t recognize. This smells at the same time complex and really simple, harmonically screechy and completely disgraceful on skin. More than “notes”, it’s just olfactive noise, a weird and rough spicy-sweet-green-tea mess. I can’t explain why, maybe is just a subjective issue, but this really makes me physically sick. Tremendously bold and linear, and as if wasn’t enough, also tragically persistent. A proper “scrubber” for me.



Paul Smith Man 2 by Paul Smith (2010)

Completely derivative but (barely) decent enough citrus-sandalwood-lavender Oriental fragrance ten years later on the trends. Smooth, soft, slightly “dark” and quite sweet, a bit powdery and mildly spicy (sweet, “round” notes of tonka and cardamom), reminding me of so many other fragrances I have a hard time staying focused on it. Trying to blend the crisp Oriental elegance of Declaration & friends, the “feminine” powderiness of Dior Homme & friends, and the “archetypal alpha male coworker” feel of Armani Code & friends. With echoes of Body Kouros too, and maybe Bulgari Man. The only note which doesn’t smell plastic is tonka. A bit juvenile and depressingly cheap but there’s worse around – anyway I think it’s discontinued, so nevermind (and don’t bother looking for it).