The Dreamer by Versace (1996)

Nose: Jean-Pierre Béthouart

First, the good news: if you want my opinion, I see almost no difference between the “vintage” and the more recent version of Dreamer. I said “almost” so I’m not saying they’re identical – the vintage smells a bit more natural, slightly darker and smoother, withouth the synthetic harshness of the recent (current?) version you can smell loud and clear at its very opening; but since in a matter of minutes it goes away and the scents perfectly “tunes in”, I think the two versions are 99% equivalent overall – just use a little patience with the more recent one. The drydown is pretty much identical, I surely don’t get any “ruined” juice as I read online about the current version. This said, the scent itself is just an excellent piece of modern perfumery. Almost nondescript for me, and it took me a while to “understand” it: it smells just really beautiful, uplifting and terribly pleasant. I don’t get how did they make it precisely, but all works perfectly. I smell tobacco (cigarette type), lavender, spices (Jaipur Homme’s kind of Oriental, talc-infused sweet spices), a clever touch of something balsamic-green, but most of all I smell overall a fantastic feel of cleanliness, peace, fulfillment with a really peculiar “ambiance” halfway naturally and earthy, and so clean and slightly musky it almost smells futuristic.

I usually can’t stand reviews romanticizing scents and I try to avoid mentioning feelings and suggesting “images”, but this time I can’t help it, as Dreamer has a really strong evocative quality for me – evoking this sense of neat, clean, “natural versus artificial” brightness with a fantastic shade of “barbershop” notes and a touch of Oriental mystery. The way they’re blended makes the difference here, Dreamer is incredibly harmonic and compact, there’s just a perfectly consistent unique smell that smells of, well, “Versace Dreamer” and that’s it. This fragrance has them almost all – it’s elegant, versatile, but at the same time informal and fun, and has a really nice set of shades and a subtle “enigmatic” vein, I guess due to its Oriental notes. An easy-going but fascinating “chiaroscuro”. Plus I think it brilliantly takes inspiration from several families of perfumes – from classic tobacco-floral fragrances like Zino Davidoff, to dandy Oriental gems like Jaipur Homme, both under a decidedly “younger”, more modern light. An outstanding work of synthesis of many diverse inspirations, brilliantly projected into the future. Excellent creativity, excellent skills to give it shape. But above all, it smells just fantastic – the vintage version does it since the very first spray, with the recent one you’ve to wait some 15-20 minutes, but then it works as good as the previous one. Easily the nicest Versace ever for men, together with L’homme from 1984 (which is as good as conventional and a bit outdated for me though, while Dreamer is way more timeless – or more precisely, completely “out of time”).


Escapade à Byzance by Olibère Parfums (2015)

(please enjoy this hilarious promo video Olibere made for the scent)

Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

Escapade à Byzance by French newcomer Olibère is for me sadly nothing more than a worthless addiction to the endless galore of Duchaufour’s creations, and particularly one of the most negligible. I guess the budget was tight here, both for the materials and for the nose, so the result is both cheap and uninspired. To cut it short this smells to me as an extremely synthetic blend of ambery-woody incense with... well, not much more. Something sweetish, spicy-dusty, vaguely similar to cinnamon but so generic and artificial that it does not trigger any specific association to notes for me. The few notes I can “recognize” with some stretch are the abovementioned amber (nothing warm, rather the ubiquitous greyish ambroxan), woods (the usual synthetic cedar stuff) and a really cheap incense note. That’s it. It doesn’t stink, but... 2015, niche? This smells like something Jil Sander could have come up with in 2001 at a third of the price. Meh...


Kenzo Power by Kenzo (2008)

Nose: Olivier Polge

Another example of a “potential niche sensation” in a “neglected mainstream bottle”. Give this an obscure hipster name, make 50 bottles per batch when you feel to and get rich (if not in money, in praise and hype). Jokes aside, Kenzo Power is an extremely interesting fragrance, surely one of the most creative ones by this brand, and most important, tremendously easy and enjoyable to wear regardless of any added value. Power is a really bright, white, talc-like powdery scent with a fantastic bergamot opening, a sort of gassy-spicy vibe and a really recognizable tolu balsam note, which brings it really close to that other tolu bomb – Escada Magnetism for Men. Both share that same exact sort of “creamy-powdery-medicinal Cola feel”, and while in Escada it was bolder and more predictably integrated in a YSL M7 kind of structure, Kenzo Power brilliantly and perfectly fits it in a completely different, almost opposite ambiance – a delicate, weightless, futuristic sort of abstract floral whiteness, which gets some “substance” and a sweet darker shade precisely thanks to this odd balmy feel coming and going, cleverly balanced by a subtle but persistent feel of aromatic zesty freshness (bergamot). The only far comparison that came to my mind at some point was some sort of translucent lab hologram of a grandnephew of Jaipur Homme and Escada Magnetism for Men – fresher than both. Quality-wise the blend smells synthetic in a really pleasant, creative way, somehow soothing and somehow aloof, the kind of synthetic which you quite never smelled before (who said syntethics don’t require as much talent and creativity than naturals?). The result is a really clean and bright scent with a ton of personality, some really charming and enigmatic shades, decidedly androgynous, creepy and comforting at the same time. Fantastic for summer days. Really well done.


Infusion d'Iris Eau de Parfum by Prada (2007)

Nose: Daniela Roche-Andrier

A classy gem I neglected for too long, I used to own Infusion d’Homme some years ago and got rid of it since it smelled too light and a bit dull for me - and I thought this was just its feminine counterpart (therefore even lighter and – not to sound sexist – probably duller). I was so wrong! This is so better than that – and ironically, way more suitable for men. Easily however this is one of the nicest iris-based scents on the market for me, especially of the fresher/gentler sub-family. And even more easily, the best offering by Prada so far, but it didn’t take much for that. Infusion d’iris is a tremendously radiant, bright and bracing blend centered on a minimalistic structure of iris petals (no buttery/waxy/lipstick orris root), bergamot, something slightly and elegantly candied-fruity, soft incense and a silky, really discreet base accord of musk and bright vetiver. The notes seem common, their smell isn’t at all: the quality is clearly high and unique, particularly more than usual, and you can definitely feel it. All smells clean and light, but decidedly more intense and substantial than one may expect.

The evolution is also really catchy and irresistibly pleasant, moving from a zesty pastel opening of fresh bergamot and bright iris petals through a soapy, stronger central phase centered on iris (blossoming in its earthier-leafier side) and musk, ending on a beautiful vetiver drydown still infused with a powdery touch of iris. Like a really consistent three-movement piece of intimate piano music, with iris being the recurrent theme. And aside from its brilliant evolution, it just smells great - period. And persistent, too: very few perfumes manage to smell this crisp, weightless and luminous keeping some intensity and persistence, and also ending up in being exceedingly perfect for men and women. Probably only the best Ellena’s for Hermès managed to do that – and Infusion d’Iris could easily stand among them in fact. Together with Rush for Men, probably one of the best works by Roche-Andrier, showing that exact same feel of discreet, bright, extremely clean sense of quality, refinement and sophistication (now let’s all wait until Prada discontinues it to realize that!).


Herrera for Men by Carolina Herrera (1991)

Nose: Rosendo Mateu and Carlos Benaim

I recently acquired a current, allegedly reformulated bottle of this (all brown dotted packaging with silver borders) and without having tried the previous one, all I can say is that this more recent version smells really good for me. Nothing harsher or more “synthetic” than one may reasonably expect - and accept - within this price range; Herrera for Men is actually kind of classy, suprisingly compelling and really enjoyable, and also fairly creative for its era: basically a sort of really smooth, niche-like curry-scented tobacco scent with a hint of honey, some clean musk-lavender tone and the shade of a classic fougère structure. Lots of interesting nuances here, from something tea-like to a really balanced use of cloves (a note that 99% of the times I hate bad). What amazed me at the first sniff is how surprisingly close to tobacco this is – way more than other more praised scents that were kind of a disappointment to me to this extent (e.g. Aramis Havana, which is great but doesn’t remind me of tobacco that much; or inferior juvenile stuff like Michael Kors for Men – not to mention most of contemporary tobacco scents smelling like cheap candies).

Speaking as a long-time cigarettes smoker, I think Herrera for Men quite captures the aroma of a packet of cigarettes – not the raw, dry-earthy one of cigars, not the sophisticated, “humid-sweet” aromatic smell of pipe tobacco, but the mildly sweet, slightly synthetic, maybe pedestrian smell of common cigarettes. There’s lots of this tobacco here, tasty and realistic, together with cumin, a drop of citrus at the opening and something sweet-warm and slightly fruity, like honeyed amber and a bit similar to tea too (think of a grown-up macho version of Gucci pour Homme II), with a really clever accord of more “traditional” masculine notes (musky lavender, woods, geranium) that gives the scent a pleasant touch of “barbershop”. There’s also some really nice sandalwood here, joining the sweet-earthy side of the fragrance. A lot of names come to mind considering the different sides of this Herrera individually, but none would be really a comparison for the fragrance as a whole, as in fact Herrera for Men smells honestly quite new and unique to me. It’s surely a bit close to other early 1990s fragrances (the first Zegna comes to mind in particular) but there’s quite more going on here. The quality isn’t top-notch but it works really good, way better than I expected given that all other Herrera scents I’ve tried were utter crap for me. A bang for the buck if you ask me; it smells good, bold but classy, masculine as a Raymond Chandler villlain, totally decent for the price.