Category Archives: Fragrance Reviews.

Projection, “sillage,” longevity, and an explanation for why reviews for certain fragrances might vary considerably.

Derby Club House Ascot Armaf for men

The example I’ll use is pictured above (by Armaf), which has listed notes (according to Fragrantica.com) of:

Top notes are green notes, lemon and bergamot; middle notes are sage, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; base notes are cedar, oakmoss, tobacco, amber, labdanum and musk.

This sounds like an “old school”/”powerhouse” fragrance, and it might be (I’ll get to that in a moment).  The first couple of times I wore it, my perceptions varied, which is not uncommon.  Sometimes it takes three or four wearings to really understand what seems to be occurring, but with this scent things were more difficult than usual, and it took me a while to figure out why.

The vast majority of reviews at Fragrantica are positive, with one person saying he feels like he threw his money out the window.  Why?  I’d guess he didn’t think it was strong enough, because the notes are certainly there and it’s not some sort of “chemical nightmare.”  The ratings of potency show that a small number of people think it’s weak, and with one spray on my first wearing I was thinking the same thing.  At first, there was a kind of competition between the fruit and “green notes” (I’m guessing galbanum) on the one hand, and a leathery woods/incense (I never got obvious tobacco and the spices seem rather mild), but eventually it settles mostly on the latter.

During my last wearing, I used four sprays to the chest, and I was thinking that while it’s stronger than past wearings, I still wasn’t getting much in the way of spices or tobacco.  Even the dominant notes weren’t that strong.  However, when I walked around other people, they said it was really strong, and that’s when I knew something odd was at work.  My guess is that it’s the kind of musk being used, which one can quickly become anosmic to, but others smell clearly (at least as you walk by them).  It did impart a kind of tingly quality, but not much in the way of scent (to me); however, when I used my hand to waft the scent directly into the nose, I could smell the notes much more clearly.

Is this a case of great projection but poor “sillage?”  Or vice versa?  The point, IMO, is that it seems it was formulated with weak notes that interest me (other than the leathery quality), but strong musk that doesn’t register much one way or the other, and may cause a certain amount of anosmia rather quickly.  The longevity seems really good, though, regardless of how much or what note you can detect.  Overall, this is an excellent fragrance if this is what you want, but it also may be a frustrating experience for some.  If you are used to the vintage greats, like me, you might think that it might work for layering purposes, but it’s best not to wear by itself, because you have the option of wearing a scent that allows you to smell the notes you want to smell clearly and with strength, for hours.

 

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What can oakmoss do for a fragrance? The Rochas Man example.

Rochas Man Rochas for men

Not long ago I purchased a lot/group of fragrances, and one of the bottles was Rochas Man.  The liquid was brownish, unlike the bottle I already owned (2011), which is mostly clear, with just a slight pink tint, and I had read that recent bottles have this brownish coloration, so I assumed it wasn’t of much value (considering what I already own, how rarely I wear Rochas Man, and what the current prices are for it).  But before I go further, I’ll quote the note description at Fragrantica.com:

…bergamot and gentle balsamic notes of lavender. Pure and intense jasmine pulses with the heart of perfume along with gentle grassy and fresh notes of lily-of-the-valley and the touch of sensual musk. The base is soft, creamy and warm together with vanilla, sandal, amber and the gourmand tone of coffee.

There may be a hint of something grassy but I never got lily-of-the-valley, nor much of any wood note.  Instead, it’s a lavender gourmand, quite similar to New Haarlem by Bond Number 9.  The obvious question is, “can I get something very close to NH if I buy a $20 bottle of Rochas Man?”  Of course, everyone has different thresholds for difference/similarity in these situations, but for me there was a major divergence in my two RM man bottles, which were formulated just one year apart!

The 2011 bottle (batch 1263) with the clear liquid/very slight pink tint is definitely harsher and less complex to me (and at least a bit “synthetic”).  As you might expect, they smell very similar, but the problem is that the 2011 becomes irritating after a while, whereas the scent from the 2010 bottle (batch code 0273) is enjoyable for hours!  While 2010 may be a bit more “masculine” than NH, which is fine with me, they are more or less on the same level, in terms of my ability to appreciate the scent for hours without irritation.  When I looked on the RM boxes, I noticed that “Evernia prunastri (oakmoss) is listed on the 0273 batch but not the 1263 one!  The other difference is that 79% volume is on the 0273 but 80% was on the 1263.

I’ve read that the very recent formulations of RM are a lot weaker than older ones, and I’d say the 1263 is certainly at least strong enough, but while that may satisfy most, the irritation factor is huge for me.  And in these situations, the great thing is that not only can I sell that 1263 bottle, but I would now certainly consider selling or swapping my New Haarlem bottle, which to me is a huge “bonus” to buying the lot, which I certainly didn’t buy because the RM bottle was included (I thought it was likely a newer bottle because the other bottles in it were released within the last five years).  Of course I can’t say that whatever amount of oakmoss in the 0273 bottle made the difference, but if it did, to me it’s a huge difference, and is consistent with those who lament the “death of perfumery” due to materials restrictions!

NOTE:  In 2015 someone posted this in a Basenotes.net thread:

The bottle in the plastic moulded box (brown juice – early version) smells significantly bolder, thicker, dustier and sweeter – in a good way – than the version with the pink cardboard box (pinkish juice).

Both of mine come in regular cardboard boxes (pink).  On Fragrantica, there was this claim:

 It was reformulated in 2008/2009 by J.M Duriez.

So, it may be that they went with a cheaper box but my 0273 bottle is still of the original formulation.  It certainly seems that way to me, as there is nothing “cheap” about it and the “quality” is very close to New Haarlem, IMO.  And while Legend by Michael Jordan compares favorably to my 1263 bottle, I would rank the 0273 bottle as clearly superior to Legend.

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A reviews of reviews: I Puredistance.

Image result for i puredistance

My idea for this “review of reviews” (and I might do more of them – let me know what you think) is to give readers a sense of how I try to determine if I should try to obtain at least a decant of a scent I’ve never sampled.  However, I think there will be more interesting insights to come of it; you can just for yourself.  On another level, though, I think that I may have gotten to the point where I find how people perceive these olfactory concoctions to be more interesting than the scents themselves, with perhaps a few exceptions.  I want to start with I by Puredistance because it’s the first fragrance reviewed in the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide,” and it was given a 4 star review (by Luca Turn).  In that review, what he learn of the actual smell is that it’s a smooth, fresh powdery, abstract floral.  We also learn that the ingredients probably cost a lot, it is of a “classical” style, and that the perfumer was Annie Buzantian, whom LT considers one of today’s best perfumers.

What we don’t learn is if he will wear it sometimes, if he thinks it has “unisex potential,” at least for some male demographics, and what fragrances that cost a lot less it is similar to (and I’m sure more than a few readers would like to know these things!).  Over at Fragrantica.com, we can learn a few more things about this 2007 release:

The perfume opens as top note with a fresh, ozone-tangerine blossom blend with a hint of cassis, complemented with neroli bigarade and crisp watery nuances.

The heart of the fragrance warms to a sophisticated, modern blend of magnolia, rose wardia & jasmine; parmenthia & natural mimosa, before finally settling softly into the rich classical notes of sweet amber, vetiver and white musk.
The perfume extract contains 32 % perfume oil.

So, does LT want to smell this himself on at least a fairly regular basis?  What about on his wife?  Or other women?  Or children?  Or pets?  Could it be used as a room spray?  How about spraying it on a card, putting that card in a zip lock sandwich bag, and taking it out now and then, if you like it so much?  But my first question to him might be, who is going to want to buy a very expensive “late-sixties” type green floral scent who doesn’t already own one that is “good enough?”  But for the moment, let’s now turn out attention to the Fragrantica reviews, one of which provides us with a sense of the rationale for it (if you aren’t poor):

This perfume is definitely perfect for any special occasion. I would suggest this perfume for wedding, opera, ballet, meeting with important persons, etc. And this perfume is not just really nice, but it also lasts all day.

“Soapy” seems to be a popular way of describing it, for example:

…opening with its bright, fresh combination of neroli, orange and other white flowers: very natural and uplifting! It dries down a little more soapy…

Now what’s interesting about this to me is that the other day I was wearing Jaguar’s Excellence (the EdT), thinking (again) that the drydown is something I would expect from a niche scent.  The notes for that one are:

…grapefruit and mandarin combined with pink pepper. A heart provides floral notes of lily of the valley, iris and orange blossom, to warm you up and to enrich warm and cuddly base notes of vanilla, amber and tonka.

So what could I get from the Puredistance scent that I couldn’t get from Excellence (which cost me around $7 for a 100 ml bottle)?  There could be a touch of galbanum to create a green quality, though I might not like Excellence that way (and I could buy some galbanun, which isn’t expensive, and add a bit to a decant of Excellence).  What about Halston’s 1-12?  if you have patience you can get a vintage bottle on ebay for very little (as I did a few months back), and then you’ll get a green floral scent of a “classic” style.  If you are male, you might prefer these more “masculine” compositions.  Speaking of male perceptions, one Fragrantica reviewer who is also a long time Basenotes member said this about the Puredistance scent:

High-end anti-aging cream type of smell. Inoffensive watery/ozonic floral that’s nowhere close being even barely distinctive or interesting. Not to talk about the overall ozonic vibe.. Is this what you’d expect from an over 2000 bucks fragrance?

Do you like this smell? Get a Carita face cream. It’s cheaper and, at least, it moisturizes.

Now I’ve also got vintage White Shoulders, and White Linen (not that I wear them), along with Teint de Neige, along with a “masculine” that possesses this floral creamy/lotion with citrus type quality (Yang, by Jacques Fath), but I rarely wear them.  Why would I even bother to try a free sample of I?  And even if I liked the composition and thought it was unique relative to what I already own, it’s likely I could use layering to create a similar effect (does LT talk about layering at all in the book?).  And then when I look at the other reviews in the free Amazon preview for this book, I see that most were given 3 stars or less (5 is the highest rating).  My biggest criticism of this review, though, is that if this is a “classic” scent, then why can’t LT which ones form the 1960s (or 1970s, or 1980s, etc.) that it is similar to?  That would really help those who might want such a scent and also have the patience to look for a bargain on ebay or at a local garage sale or thrift shop.  Again, I get the sense that he and his wife are not considering the fact that most fragrance hobbyists are not millionaires.

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Is PS (Paul Sebastian) Fine Cologne similar to Heritage by Guerlain?

PS Fine Cologne Paul Sebastian for men

This question was  asked recently on a Basenotes.net thread (and it’s possible that the most recent formulations are similar, for all I know):

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/458281-Guerlain-Heritage-smells-like-PS-Fine-Cologne

While these two fragrances (I’m assuming the original formulations) are “in the same ballpark,” I don’t think of them as especially similar.  Putting aside note articulation (which is much better in the Guerlain, for the dominant notes), PS is simpler and cruder.  However, the notes in PS are also in Heritage, except for myrrh.  Those are (taken from Parfumo.net):

Lavender, Sage, Mugwort, Musk, Myrrh, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla.

However, Fragrantica lists the notes as:

…amber, lavender, musk, jasmine, oakmoss, sage, ylang-ylang and rose.

The notes for Heritage, from Fragrantica.com, are:

…bergamot, orange, aldehydes, green accords, lavender, lemon, petit grain, violet, clary sage, nutmeg… pepper, coriander, orris root, along with rose, jasmine, carnation, honeysuckle, geranium and lily-of-the-valley…cedar, vetiver, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, oakmoss, sandalwood and powdery vanilla.

So, it  certainly doesn’t suggest a “newbie nose” if you were to perceive the two as similar. For me, Heritage is a complex sandalwood scent, whereas PS is more about myrrh, and the blending is quite different.  I decided to wear PS in order to contribute to the thread, and it struck me as being most similar to Third Man Caron.  Basenotes has the notes for that one as:

Lavender, Rosemary, Anise, Bergamot.
Geranium, Jasmin, Rose, Fern, Carnation.
Amber, Musk, Moss, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Tonka, Vanilla.

Again, I’d say PS is simpler and cruder, though Third Man is also less articulated than Heritage, which is perhaps why it seemed more similar to me. I don’t remember smelling any anise in Third Man; otherwise, I’d likely perceive it quite a bit differently.  Others have said it’s like the Eau de Parfum version of Old Spice, and yes, that also makes sense (but it doesn’t seem to be as spicy).  The great thing about PS is that you can still obtain a “vintage” formulation for low cost, at least on ebay (unlike vintage Heritage and Third Man), so it’s worth considering (and it’s not exactly like Third Man).    However, some have complained that the new formulation by EA Fragrances is too weak or in some other way quite bad, so you can look for the FFI/French Fragrances, Inc. version or the earlier Paul Sebastian, Inc. one.  I’ve seen some on ebay recently and the label on the bottom of the bottle reads:

DIST.
PAUL SEBASTIAN, INC.
OCEAN, NJ 07712
4 FL. OZ.

or something similar, and there should also be a batch code stamped over some of that text (four digits seems common).  Now if you are afraid of wearing an “old man” scent, you probably won’t like it.  The first hour or so is a bit chaotic for my tastes, but it does come together and and I like the myrrh note in particular.  To me, it’s the kind of scent worth buying if you can find vintage at a low price because you may come to enjoy it even if you don’t like it initially (which is my experience).  And with vintage prices rising, it may be a good “investment” if you decide you just can’t wear it, for whatever reason.  Another idea is to try the vintage aftershave, which may be weaker or a bit different.

PS does feel a bit like an “amateur effort” to me, due to how it’s blended to come across as one major accord, but I have no problem with that, so long as it’s enjoyable.  Is it really such an effort?  The “story” is that PS was “a potion [Leonard Paul] Cuozzo had been improving for over a decade together with New York perfumer Fritzsche Dodge:”

https://www.perfumemaster.com/design-house/paul-sebastian

It would be interesting to hear what Dodge has to say, but is this a person or a company?  There is some information here that suggests the latter:

http://www.perfumeprojects.com/museum/marketers/Fritzsche.shtml

Overall, it sounds like a “right place, right time” type of story, but my main point is that PS is a scent like Stetson, in that it seems to often get dismissed out of hand as being “drug store dreck,” which in the case of PS is ironic, because their marketing strategy was to cultivate an “upscale” image.  However, the reality is that in at least “vintage” formulation, it’s not only “high quality” compared to today’s designers (and perhaps most niche at this point) but is very strong, so that a four ounce bottle of the “fine cologne” might last you many years!  And while the first couple of hours might be rather crude and simple compared to the vintage greats, the drydown definitely holds its own, and for me it’s just a matter of personal preferences at that point.

I’ve never liked Caron Pour un Homme, even in vintage formulation, which feels too unbalanced (with searing lavender), and I view PS as a “step up,” but I’d say that PS even fares well against Bois du Portugal, which is smoother but rather simple.  There are quite a few vintage scents in this same “ballpark,” so it’s a matter of personal taste, but PS should not be discounted in any way (at least in vintage formulation).  This could certainly be a niche scent today, though most don’t smell as natural as PS, the major “problem”  being associations with fragrances that are reminiscent of older male relatives.  I view PS in a “glass half full” way, that is, the great advantage of it for the aficionado is that it is similar to so many others, some of which being very expensive, so you can just go on ebay, do a little research, get a great deal on vintage PS, and then you are “set” for this type of scent.  Another example is Sartorial by Penhaligon’s, which from what I remember is also rather similar!

UPDATE:  I came upon an 8 ounce splash PS Fine Cologne bottle.  The box said French Fragrances, Inc. (with the “short list of ingredients”), but the label on the bottom of the bottle said Paul Sebastian, Inc.

 

 

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Was there an Eau de Parfum formulation of Pino Silvestre?

One reason I decided to publish this post today is because it somewhat complements the latest post on the FromPyrgos blog.  A few months back, I obtained the EdP bottle of PS pictured below.  I also took pictures of the other two bottles I own, one I obtained about five years ago, from a discounter, which of course means  it might be quite a bit older (the largest bottle, 125 ml).  The one in the middle is a “vintage” formulation, though I can’t say how old it is for sure (it’s got a more natural lavender note and is smoother).  The EdP is also clearly different to me, with less lavender and the kind of base you find in many “intense,” “absolute,” “extreme,” etc. flankers (that is, it may have benzoin, amber, vanilla, etc., blended together to create that smooth but not too sweet quality).  It’s my favorite of the three by a wide margin, and something that niche companies might learn a thing or two from!  If anyone knows something about the EdP please leave a comment – I contacted Mavive through their web site for any information they could give me on the EdP but they didn’t respond:

Pino Silvestre 3 bottles.jpg

If you can’t read it, the EdP says Special Edition next to the number 50, and that number has the degree symbol next to it.

Pino Silvestre bottle bottoms.jpg

On the bottom of the EdP bottle, embossed in the glass, it says Weruska & Joel Torino.  It also has a transparent plastic label which says this, along with Eau de Parfum, Made in Italy, 75 ml, etc.  Then the batch code (I’d guess) of 6039 appears to be stamped over that plastic label.  The cap seems to be a wood veneer and there’s a mid green colored plastic liner that slides onto the sprayer (which is a gold metal).

In his blog post about Green Generation (by Mavive), Brian mentions Weruska & Joel, so perhaps he has some ideas about it, at least roughly when it was released:

https://frompyrgos.blogspot.com/2014/10/green-generation-him-parfums-mavive.html

One possibility is that not only was it a limited edition but it was also only released in certain nations (the person I bought it from was located within the USA).  And note that I didn’t try to contact Weruska & Joel because at the time I thought it was the company that made the bottle.  I’ll do that if I don’t get any information on it within the next few days.

UPDATE:  See the comments for the answer!

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The designer scent that’s a failed attempt at niche.

Vetiver Essence Ferrari for men

You may have heard the phrase, “a designer attempt at niche” before, but I often find it not to be applicable or to be at least somewhat misplaced, though I think this is the perfect way to regard Ferrari’s Essence Vetiver (though not successful, IMO).  Fragrantica.com lists the notes as:

…Calabrian bergamot, red and Sichuan pepper and cardamom. The heart includes aroma of coffee, orris root and essence of vetiver. Patchouli, tonka and hazel wood form the base of the perfume.

The first time I wore it, a dab sampling, I didn’t smell much at all, so the second time I decided to go with four sprays to the chest.  There’s an orange-ish quality that’s a touch sour and sort of bounces around at low volume, which is more odd than irritating or pleasant.  My review included the following:

… I can’t say I smell an obvious vetiver note but it does smell like an odd murky composition. Yes, it seems that spice, patchouli, etc. and even coffee is present, but it’s sort of like taking bright oil paints and blending them together until you get a medium brown color with just hints of the original pigments. So I do find it interesting but not all that enjoyable. It’s not sweet, nor animalic, at least not yet. I’ll update if anything changes. The dull color of the bottle certainly seems appropriate!

And it didn’t last all that long either, which was another disappointment.  If this was a typical Lutens with the same notes I would be really interested in sampling it, and I would be surprised if I didn’t like it.  Most likely it would have a heavy amber, patchouli, and/or tonka base, but this one just peters out over time, never really smell more than somewhat interesting.  Here’s another Fragrantica review that is similar:

Down right disappointing 😦
Nothing in this fragrance smells genuine!
Not the vetiver (what I bought it for.. no wonder people say “not for vetiver lover”), not the cardamon (silly me, hoping for something like Voyage d`Hermes), not the bergamot (I just smell something sour and fresh-ish green), and definitely not the potentially gourmand hazelnut and coffee (one can only hope)…
However, it does deliver the sharp peppers [opening] and the patchouli [drydown], which doesn’t help -_-
Interesting maybe, but overall a pretty messy cheap smelling commercial type

I wish I had perceived strong patchouli with the drydown, and I didn’t get the sharp pepper he did, but it does give me an idea!  Next time I should apply a strong patchouli scent underneath where I spray Vetiver Essesnce.  If and when I do that, I’ll update this post.  Otherwise, my experience is that these “niche-like designer” scents are really “hit or miss.”  Franck Olivier’s Oud Touch is really great for the $15 I paid for 100 ml, by contrast.  There were some very positive reviews, though, such as:

I really enjoy this fragrance, everything works well together and it’s almost like nothing I have smelled before, least in my neck of the woods. Drydown is amazing. Like what you like and wear it, I do…

And there was also the idea that it’s a good “starter vetiver” scent, but I got so little vetiver that I can’t agree with that notion.  However, I did pay less than $18 for 100 l new, and so if you like the note list and can sample it, I’d certainly say try it, but as a blind buy I can’t recommend it.  Even if you like the scent you might be disappointed with the longevity and/or projection.

 

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The “nothing fragrance.”

Jil Sander Man Jil Sander for men

First let me make clear that what might be a “nothing fragrance” for me, might be a “masterpiece” for you, or vice versa.  As you might have guessed, this 2007 release, Jil Sander Man, is one such scent for me.  But what’s interesting is the glowing reviews for it.  Before I get to those, let me me disclose the notes (from Fragrantica.com):

Top notes are lavender, violet and bergamot; middle notes are sage and vetiver; base notes are cedar, myrrh and russian leather.

Just as Fragrantica alone, we can read reviews that include the following:

…a remarkable fragrance.

…Rubbery? Yes. Smoky? Yes. Unique? absolutely.

…It opens with an aromatic flowery phase (bergamot, lavender & violet – one of my preferred flowery notes) then switch on a bitter rooty-spicy one (sage & vetiver). In the drydown, when the sweet woody-incensy combo arises (myrrth & cedar) it feels very smooth, elegant and also a bit leathery.

…I use this only at special occasions when I want to feel this wonderful smoke and leather.

…This is one of the most delicious scent I have ever felt!

…basically a woody-leathery violet scent with vetiver and cedar (“pencil”) notes and a slight smoky fog.

…It is too heavy sweet and without interesting individuality. Seems even unisex because of that sugar sweetness.

…Love this! What a nice smoke, vetiver, wood combo!

…This is such a overwelaming scent ! Truly a Masterpice.

…Very much like Cacharel NEMO, about the same sillage. Also, there are a few aspects of this fragrance that remind me of Vintage YSL M7. The biggest is the AWESOME powdery drydown, not a talc, but a wonderful leathery powder. It is just awesome!

…The drydown is good and surprising. Do not let the opening fool you.

…Truly a hidden GEM ! Dark…sexy…masculine…mysterious.

My review is:

For a while I was thinking, a smoother Rochas Man, but without a coffee note (or one that is very mild). However, there is also a “fresh” element (“old school” style, not a bunch of powerful/nasty aroma chemicals). I’d say the sweetness is moderate, and it’s not a strong scent overall, perhaps an “office friendly” version of Rochas Man. I’m not getting a smoky quality, as others have, and I certainly wouldn’t call it a remarkable scent, though I can understand how some might really enjoy it (“dark,” “sexy, or “masculine:” I’d say a “big no” to those descriptions). Don’t expect to clearly smell some or even most of the listed notes – this is more of a “classy” designer blend scent. This is not the kind of scent I’d wear often, if ever really, because when I want at least some of those notes I want them to be more obvious or stronger.

To be fair, there were a few reviews that included comments that I agree with, but overall I was thinking, “how could such a ‘meh’ scent be described in these ways?”  In some ways, I’d say this is a good example of a scent that was blended “into oblivion.”  But I can’t say anything else “bad” about it, other than it may have been a scent of its time (or perhaps the time had passed it by before it was released).  The youngsters would likely say it’s too “old” or “mature,” and it’s not what I would call an aficionado or “niche crowd” scent.  It certainly could be a good “office scent,” but only in the sense that it’s weak and nondescript, at least at this point in time.  Since it was released the same year I first started reading about fragrances (and in my case it was at the very end of 2007), I can’t say it was perceived as an “office scent” with a bit of an edge at that time.  However, I purchased a bottle as part of a lot, so I’m not too disappointed.  I’ll likely move it out by swap or sale soon, but I’m almost regretful that I “wasted” a day wearing it when I could have worn something I’d have enjoyed!

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