Savile Row by Richard James (2003)

Nose: Yves Cassar

The early version of the apparently reformulated Savile Row is a stunning masterwork which shows most of niche brands how a rich, fruity, deep contemporary floral-leather fragrance should be made. Following the ideal creative path started by Givenchy Insensé, it takes the richest, darkest and most “masculine” floral notes with no compromises on quality, and pairs them with a modern fruity-suede vibe amplifying and giving depth and strength to the “smooth contemporary leather accord” that inspired many relatively recent (and so much inferior) “soft leather” scents – from Cuir Ottoman to Tuscan Leather, via Lutens’ Daim Blond and even a hint of modern Visa by Piguet. So don’t expect any dry, well-worn leather à la Knize Ten, as here it’s all more about a tobacco-infused smooth and bright suede accord. Smooth, but not light at all. Savile Row is powerful, immensely sophisticated, and contrary to many similar scents, finally bold, clear, thick in a distinguished and mannered way. It has the grace and the pastel palette of a dandy portrait thanks to its juicy, luminous accord of sweet notes (from rose to ambery peach, and from tea to sandalwood) paired with “The Dark Force” of many classic masculine fougères – leather, tobacco, lavender, patchouli, oakmoss. And tuberose, of course, the main altar of this Baroque cathedral. There’s quite some complexity going on, or better say, a kind of extremely harmonic – again, I’d define it Baroque – golden intricacy which still leaves me speechless every time I wear this. Classic, but smoothly contemporary – by this I mean crisp, refined, bold but unobtrusive. Slightly linear but that’s all you would wish from something so perfect. Nothing else to say: just brilliant.


Collezione Privata: Viaggio d'Africa by Pal Zileri (2010)

There has been quite some talk about this fragrance, mostly for being allegedly a ten times cheaper clone of Hermès Vetiver Tonka. Since I happen to quite like Vetiver Tonka but nothing on Earth could ever make me spend that money for it, I decided to give Viaggio d’Africa a chance. If you want to skip the boring part: yes, it’s tremendously similar to Vetiver Tonka, especially for the opening phase. I don’t know if this means that Pal Zileri turned into a charity superhero to offer solid fragrances at cheap prices, or if Vetiver Tonka should cost ten times less its price; in any case, Viaggio d’Africa is just plain great. It has one of those openings that make you wish they could last forever: a warm, exceedingly sophisticated and smooth accord of vetiver, tonka and something powdery with a shade of cocoa, infused with earthy smoke, darker woods (guaiac) and some slightly musky coffee. Basically a true “brown”, rich and dusty fog; imagine the earthy-grassy texture of vetiver, the exotic sweet-vanillic dustiness of tonka, and a blurry, refined sort of powdery-coffee accord as if someone at 30 metres distance from you is wearing Rochas Man, with a faint echo of Dior Homme too. Both of you standing in the breezy middle of a desert. This is Viaggio d’Africa.

I admit Vetiver Tonka has a bit more vetiver (and a more elegant, rich and crisp one – shortly, more quality) while Viaggio d’Africa tends to drift more towards tonka and smoky-spicy-earthy territories; but nonetheless it’s really, really pleasant to wear. It feels elegant, warm, smooth without smelling formal or generic. It’s exotic, distinguished and mellow. And most important, besides being satisfactorily persistent, it’s decidedly unique for being a cheap mainstream. It obviously has some “cheap” nuances and if you smell it carefully you definitely get some usual aromachemicals you can find in many fragrances of the same price range (especially if you compare vetiver here with its Hermès more expensive twin); but the guys at Mavive were more than good in disguising them and bringing the best out of their budget. You can wear it and tell anybody it’s a niche scent, none will doubt it (and for once I won’t imply that this would happen because most niche scents are mainstream scraps in disguise). Recommended.


Tome I - La Pureté for Him by Zadig & Voltaire (2012)

Nose: Nathalie Lorson

And another total winner in Nathalie Lorson’s book. First of all, although I usually couldn’t care less of packagings and bottles, I must start by saying that La Pureté’s book-like presentation box is stunning, and so is the bottle with its sturdy, concrete-like matte grey texture. Well-crafted, consistent and visually pleasant – the price I paid (at Sephora’s) wouldn’t even cover the cost of the packaging alone. All revolves around grey, white and black, and in a way so does the fragrance. This is a true little gem for me, which I would dare to place if not next, then “almost” close to post-modern classics like Gucci Rush Men, which La Pureté reminds me a bit to some aspects in fact – mostly for the same transparent and plushy sandalwood notes, and overall the same solid and compelling use of synthetic-clean notes.

There is mostly orange blossoms here, providing a really peculiar sort of “empty” and abstract floral-citrus-spicy breeze; then musky violet (with a really interesting sort of “wet concrete” feel as in Narciso for Him), hyper-clean mellow woods ranging from a milky sandalwood note to a deceptively “generic” cedar note, and a subtle and darker note which I get in many scents by Lorson – a sort of really thin dark, slightly coffee-infused wood with a really smooth-hard texture, vaguely smoky too (I get the exact same nuance in Trussardi Inside Man, Encre Noire and Paul Smith Man). And a subtle, and again “empty” aroma of almonds, which isn’t prominent for me though. All works just perfectly: there’s harmony, quiet richness, youthful elegance. The result is an immensely enjoyable fragrance conveying an overall sense of sweet whiteness and pale cleanliness well contrasted by some subtler nuances of not-so-common floral-spicy and even earthy notes (I think I even get something similar to raw, earth-dusted muguet). The name fits the scent perfectly, as the feel is in fact of something really “pure” – a futuristic, aseptic but at the same time, soothing and comforting (almost medicinal) kind of pureness. So unisex and out of time it could smell refined on anyone – men, women, teenagers, children, robots. Fantastic to wear, maybe a bit linear – but it’s so good! - and ridicolously persistent. A compelling creative take on a trite theme.


Knize Sec by Knize (1987)

Nose: Francois Coty and Vincent Roubert

Oh well this is nice. Really nice, and surprisingly ahead of its time. It was released in the mid-Eighties but has really nothing of that era’s clichés: this is a really modern, substantial but thin orange-woody-balsamic fragrance with leather, incense and amazingly well-put barbershop echoes. Fresh, tart, aromatic, floral and gentle, really uplifting and easy-going but showing a compelling and quite unique sort of sweet, kind of “young” refinement with some more mature dark shades and a discreet feminine touch (many women’s “ideal man” in a bottle, I guess...). I get the connection to Knize Ten, and I totally love the way they elaborated it; they managed to keep the same “waxy”, slightly soapy accord of leather and musk, adding an aromatic touch of herbs (I think I get some pine-infused tobacco as in Veejaga’s Haschisch Man – a scent which by the way, will come as a reference also on the very drydown) and barbershop notes (sage and lavender, distantly echoing Azzaro pour Homme) and that whole genius head accord of orange notes – notes which range from the sweet, juicy, citrusy pulp of orange, to dandier floral-soapy orange blossoms, to musky-herbal accents of petitgrain. They all elevate Knize Ten’s gloomy and monolithic dryness to a bracing, pastel, dusty, colorful citrus-powdery mood with a herbal vein. Sheer and sophisticated to say the least. And then there’s incense, providing an astonishingly modern feel of bright, ambery woody smoke (nothing thick or cloudy, just a classy fog of sweet smooth incense with a subtle, transparent mystical vibe as in many incense fragrances from today). The evolution, then, is equally well engineered; less and less fresher, progressively drier and darker but unexpectedly more floral too, still bright and gentle as hours pass. At some points you may feel as if you’ve just layered Knize Ten on vintage Eau de Givenchy for women and some contemporary minimalistic niche stuff with orange and incense (I’m sure there is some out there). A luminous, clever dandy gem and a fantastic exploration of Knize Ten’s nuances which could have been released last year for how modern it smells. Complex, interesting and extremely pleasant to wear. Recommended!