Category Archives: Fragrance Reviews.

Move over Black Afgano… or perhaps not?

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Revisting Vermeil, including its initial iteration, and a Kouros “clone.”

Apparently, before Vermeil there was this Guepard scent:

The bottle is very similar except this one is transparent.  However, while the scent is clearly meant to be the same, this Guepard is smoother and to me, clearly superior, with excellent longevity/projection.  It seems there was some sort of legal action taken, and to the name was changed to Vermeil.  I also had the chance to try the latest formulation of Vermeil, which was fairly close to “vintage Vermeil” but seemed considerably weaker.  So, rather than spend $50 or so on any Vermeil bottle, I suggest buying a bottle of Guepard, because the price difference now isn’t that significant.  And if you haven’t read my original post about possibly different formulations of Vermeil, I suggest taking a look:

https://bigslyfragrance.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/a-tale-of-two-vermeils/

Since I don’t have much to add here, I thought I’d also speak to what some regard as a Kouros clone, The Man Silver by Milton-Lloyd:

edtspray, Jewelry, Men, Men's Fashion

There is a kind of burnt rubber quality missing in vintage Kouros, so it is not much of a real clone, but there is also a strong animalic element that isn’t too far off, perhaps 50% vintage Kouros and 50% old school leather (without much lavender), with that burnt rubber note added (and it’s only obvious if smelled up close and for the first 20 minutes or so). One spray to the chest might be good enough, as this is very strong, so that alone is worth it, IMO. To me it cannot replace vintage Kouros if that is what I really want to wear on a given day, but instead it is a Kouros-like scent (and a better scent than the 2017 Kouros bottle I have, again, IMO) that can be worn the way I would wear other similar scents, such as Joint Homme, Furyo, Orange Spice, Vermeil/Guepard, etc.  A friend of mine said that it was like an animalic leather scent combined with some “old lady scent” of decades past, but he is a big fan of Gucci Guilty Absolute for Men, and he isn’t a fan of older style scents.

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Dior Homme 2020, a great “generic, dumb-reach, masculine freshie?”

Dior Homme (2020) Christian Dior for men

If you haven’t heard, Dior has decided to go in a very different direction with Dior Homme.  To be specific, apparently they’ve decided to keep the look of the bottle and the name, but put an entirely different scent inside.  Why?  To me this is the most interesting thing about it!  And as is the case with so many recent releases (including most niche), not only haven’t I tried it, but I really have no interest in it (so this is another one of my non-review reviews).  I don’t even want to waste the couple of minutes it would take to walk into Sephora and spray it on.  I’m done with this game, to put it crudely (though if a friend or relative gives me a sample, as occurs on rare occasion, I’ll spray it on a piece of paper and report back).

As I’ve said before, if you want “generic masculine freshie” just go to the dollar store;  those scents are quite good these days, so there’s no reason to spend a lot on these kinds of scents.  But you likely already have one of these scents, so why are you even thinking about it?  There’s something more here, and I can only speculate about what it is because I have the opposite reaction (as the above clearly indicates). That is, “the appeal of Dior” means nothing to me.  I have several bottles of their fragrances and I’m pleased with those, but apparently some people act like a new Dior release is the same as a new Star Wars film is for a fan of that “franchise.”  It’s almost like hardly anyone can identify, let alone appreciate “no name” presentations that are “quality.”

Also, as I’ve mentioned in the past, at least in the winter, I lay out my coat on my bed and spray the back of it with a scent like Cool Water, while spraying the scent I enjoy on my chest.  Why would I buy Dior Homme and do that, when I have a few bottles of Cool Water and several other “generic freshies?”  Over at the From Pyrgos blog, the answer seems to be “to get laid.”  I’ll add that what seems to happen is that after a while the old “ground-breaking” freshies become generic, until the perfumers concoct a new, clearly “chemical” formulation that pleases a certain feminine demographic, and then we get the numerous “clone” scents.  If that’s the reality, there isn’t much I can do about it, obviously, and at this point we are back to the question I asked in the first paragraph – why didn’t Dior come up with a new bottle that is more “youthful,” as well as not being associated with the “feminine” (as many reviewers call it) original formulation?

My guess is that they did their product testing and evaluated sales, then concluded this was the best way forward for them, financially.  However, it is quite disappointing to think of what they might have been able to create, given the resources they possess and the past upon which they could build.  As of this writing, this is from the most recent review of it at Fragrantica.com (which seems consistent with most of the other reviews, though they tend to be more negative):

…this doesn’t smell like anything on the Dior Homme line. I love and own the entire Homme line but this Homme 2020 needs to be evaluated differently.

If you can past that what you got left is a very bright, clean and more masculine scent. Dior Homme 2020 is easier to wear, performance is good and it gives you a very clean smelling feel which is typical of Iso-E super.

This is “generic” in a good way. Is a dumb reach, mass appealing and better office scent than anything Dior have released before.

I only wish this was a standalone fragrance.

I can picture The Joker from the Batman “franchise” being the one who made this decision at Dior (or whatever corporate entity is making the decisions), but while it seems like a terrible joke by a deranged fool, it’s probably just the “bean counters” doing what one expects of them (as Luca Turin might say).  Yet was there just one person who pointed out how idiotic this decision was?  Or did they want to generate a “controversy?”  Is it that bad publicity is likely to equal higher sales, and so it is welcomed?  And if so, did they learn this lesson with Sauvage?  It seems to me that what was once olfactory art has become a craven corporate game of “how can we best take advantage of the deluded fools?”  Or have at least some corporations provided the proverbial love potion that has been sought after since the beginning of recorded history, if not earlier?  Whatever the case may be, I’ve decided to pass during this round of the game.

NOTE:  I do not think that a “generic, dumb-reach, masculine freshie” can be great, so the title was meant to be at least somewhat facetious, for those who harbored any doubts.

UPDATE:  Could this have all started with Cool Water for Men (1988)?  That is, before then, “freshies” were mostly like “traditional colognes” or, on the men’s counter, fragrances like Paco Rabanne Pour Homme.  Synthetics might be present, but in relatively small amounts.  However, with Cool Water there was a large amount of dihydromyrcenol, which was also present in previous scents (Green Irish Tweed of 1985 and Drakkar Noir of 1982), so it seems that perfumers were trying to figure out how much they could add before people began to think, “chemical mess.”  Since then it’s almost like the “chemical mess” is the feature, not the “bug,” as they say.  The whole point of “modern perfumery” used to be using synthetics to enhance the scent, perhaps providing an “abstract” quality, as well as improving performance (significantly, in most or all cases), but now, in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” overpoweringly chemical fragrances seem to be the ones making the biggest impressions (perhaps especially on certain demographics).  I guess I should not be surprised, but again, why the same bottle and name?  Perhaps an entirely new release would require a certain amount of marketing from a company like Dior and they don’t want to spend it at this point for some reason?

UPDATE #2:  I was provided with an official paper sample of this scent, and while it certainly smelled “nice,” it also smelled like paper, and I’ve often found that paper samples don’t help me much, in terms of getting a sense of how it will perform on paper.  Moreover, back in 2007, I was given a paper sample of Nautica Voyage and thought it smelled great, but I never got that when I wore it on skin (both vintage and reformulated versions).  So, while it does smell “chemical” it doesn’t smell like a chemical mess, though again, I might perceive it that way if I sprayed it on skin.

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How does one “lose interest” in this hobby, or any hobby?

Moonlight Patchouli Van Cleef & Arpels for women and men

I haven’t posted in a while because I didn’t think I had anything new to contribute.  I have been reviewing fragrances, mostly at Fragrantica.com, and intend to continue to do so, but to write more than a review, I think there should be more content, some larger issue.  That doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest, though I do have the sense that no new release is going to motivate me to buy even a decant, as there are only so many things I want to smell in various combinations and I’m not going to spend money on something that’s both pleasant and slightly novel.

I’ve also had an issue with sensitivity.  Back in 2008, I had very high sensitivity, which led to an intolerance to more than a few scents.  Now, I can use a couple of spray of vintage Kouros to the chest and in less than an hour I need to wave my hand to waft the smell up because I can barely smell anything thereafter!  Needless to say, this has led to less interest than usual, so at least two factors are involved in my recent lower interest level.  Moreover, there don’t seem to be many noteworthy issues to discuss.  What passes for that these days seems to be rather uninteresting comments about the Office One scent, released by a Youtube “influencer” whose preferences in fragrance seem to be more or less the opposite of mine.

All that said, I’ll provide an example, the 2016 release, Moonlight Patchouli by Van Cleef & Arpels.  Fragrantica lists the notes as:

Top notes are cacao, patchouli leaf and woodsy notes; middle notes are iris flower and bulgarian rose; base notes are fruity notes, leather and suede.

My December, 2018 review of it is:

I got more fruitiness from this than most others apparently did, and nothing I’d call leather, other than the listed suede (and that’s light). Also, while there is a hint of something chocolate-ish, I would have liked that note to be stronger. The patchouli is there but weak. I guess they were going for more of a blended effect, and it does smell nice. However, it’s not edgy or a statement-maker, unless perhaps you use several sprays. I think Phoneix by Keith Urban executes this general idea better, though the prices on that one are now in the stratosphere, so it’s no longer the “cheapo” option it once was. I look forward to wearing it again, in the hopes that more nuances will be revealed.

What I am getting now is a candy-ish scent that doesn’t go so far as to smell just like candy.  Besides that, I get some sort of aroma chemical interference, so to speak, that functions to keep the candy-ish quality at bay.  I wouldn’t say I’m finding it unpleasant now, but it’s almost a distraction.  I’d rather smell it on a piece of paper so that I didn’t have to deal with it for hours.  Perhaps if sensitivity is low, and one is not able to detect complexity (after enjoying this quality for years), a disappointing olfactory experience is to be expected.  I don’t have any issues with my sense of smell, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor here.

Unlike others, I see no need to discard a hobby that becomes less interesting, but rather I tend to think this is a common development, and perhaps my sensitivity will return soon.  I do still look forward to spraying on a different fragrance each day, though, hoping to enjoy the experience the way I did not that long ago.  Many others seem to need to feel a sense of finality for some reason, and some even state on sites like Basenotes or Fragrantica that they are “done” with the hobby, but I’ve found that my interest in things tend to come and go, so self-awareness may play a major role in thinking that a hobby needs to be abandoned, rather than simply “putting it on the back burner” for a while.

UPDATE:  Since posting the above, I’ve done two things, the first being to use a lot more sprays on scents I found to be weak, and that seems to help, but it’s still “early days” on that idea.  The other is to wear strong scents that I haven’t worn in a while.  For example, I used two sprays of vintage Furyo a couple days ago.  The initial blast was quite animalic, and I also detected citrus, but after a few minutes I mostly got a pleasant blend but didn’t detect much specificity.  Still, I’ll take what I can get!

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A “super-cheapo” gem that has gotten no attention.

Eau De Royal Secret Five Star Fragrance EDT Spray Women 3.4 oz

I saw this one on sale a while back at a very low price, hesitated, and someone else bought it, but a few weeks ago I had another opportunity and took it.  Before making the purchase, I did some research, but the reviews were not promising, for example (from Amazon):

This does NOT have the Royal Secret fragrance that my mother has used for many years. She still has a small quantity left in another bottle – the fragrance doesn’t begin to compare and it’s a different color. Where oh where is the wonderful Royal Secret??

However, for the most part the comparison seemed to be with the original Royal Secret (by Germaine Monteil), which is a real “old school” oriental (I have some of that one in EdC formulation and I don’t “need” more, especially at current prices).  Also, the fact that it is made by Five Star Fragrance was a concern, not that they are a terrible company but that IMO it’s “hit or miss.”  These are the fragrances that are marketed under their name (apparently they were bought out by Perfumania):

https://perfumaniaholdings.com/fragrance-brands/parlux-five-star-fragrance

What I really wanted a scent that was consistent with the note pyramid for EdRS, which is:

Pink pepper, Italian bergamot, Mandarin, Blackcurrant, Night-blooming jasmine, Orange blossom, Lily-of-the-valley, Vanilla absolute, Indonesian patchouli, Tonka bean absolute, Frankincense, Golden amber, Tobacco, Cocoa, Musk.

Of course, it was possible that some notes (that I’m not a fan of) would be too strong, but I thought it was a chance worth taking at a very low price.  Fortunately, the scent is excellent, sort of a “feminine” TF Tobacco Vanille!  Instead of the fruit and spice of TV, EdRS has a clear jasmine to go along with the tobacco, amber, etc.  The cocoa note is present, though overall this does not have the edible sweetness one might associate with outright gourmand fragrances.  Moreover, for men who don’t mind a bit of jasmine, this is worthy of consideration if you like TV type fragrances.  Indeed, EdRS is less “in your face” than TV, and so one doesn’t need to really be in the mood for a tobacco or gourmand-ish scent, as I find to be the case with TV.

Another idea is to layer this scent with one that is complimentary, such as the Ungaro Oud fragrance, which is devoid of florals and tobacco.  Once you start to really understand these concoctions, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to make them work for your particular preferences.  The only “downside” is that you may sacrifice a day if your layering combination is mediocre or weird, but not especially pleasant,, as does occur from time to time.  However, when I find that the first scent just petered out and not much remains other than a generic or common base, that’s the time to try another fragrance that may complement it, in my experience.  In any case, EdRS could have been marketed by a niche company – I think the formula should have been tweaked a bit, though.  The jasmine could have been weakened and the tobacco and cocoa could have been strengthened, and then it would be a unisex niche scent!  Yet once you already own a scent like that, I find I’d rather have something a little different, and that’s where EdRS comes into play!

By contrast, what does niche have to offer?  Coincidentally, while writing this I took a break and noticed a Clive Christian scent, L for Men, for $100 (50 ml, nearly full), so I looked up the reviews.  One of those at Fragrantica is:

I… own and wear mostly CC fragrances. L is masculine and has a distinctive rich smell. CC fragrances are made with the finest ingredients so you only need 1 or 2 sprays. The notes on the dry down is green and woodsy. L is for the mature and confident individual.

First, a “distinctive rich smell” is culture-bound.  The “party boys” will likely say you smell like an “old man” if you wear a scent like L, I’d guess.  This is obvious, but what about “finest ingredients?”  How would we know?  The company would need to be totally transparent to know this for sure, including allowing anyone who wishes to visit their facilities without notice.  Even worse, expensive ingredients (I won’t say “finest” because that notion requires definition) aren’t necessarily especially strong!  It depends, and can vary significantly, especially for some ingredients (presumably natural?)_that are used for top notes.  Also, what does “green and woody” mean?  I see that quite often, but it doesn’t really help me – if you don’t know what galbanum is, for example, how can I take you seriously when you say “green?”  What about ivy or violet leaf?  In some cases a few people seem to think that cypress is green.  So, it’s one thing to get a green impression, but it’s another thing to be unable to detect major notes yet to say that a scent possesses the finest ingredients know to humankind!  Fortunately, there are better ones (for my purposes), such as:

…Opens with undeniable petitgrain and a musty body odor lemon vetiver combo which to a large degree, I found it to be alluring. Thanks to a volley of firs, the composition “greens up” a bit as a Irish Spring Soap Bar gone niche. Now I’m getting to the part of the fragrance that’s more comfortable and not as green. In the base, the prominent note is arguably the musk. At this moment, gone are the body odor vibe, but this rides into the sunset as a woody, soapy, green frag with sweet musky nuances.

Others say that it becomes a rose/oud “masculine,” while others say vetiver is strong, and I certainly don’t need more fragrances of that type, so I wouldn’t blind buy it, due to the price and my preferences.  But I think the key point here is that just like anything else, at least for me, “quality ingredients” can get boring if the composition is not compelling.  Otherwise, people can (and some do) just buy essential oils, which can be very inexpensive.  Then they dilute to safe/preferable levels, possibly adding two or three together.  This is why a scent like EdRS is so appealing to me – it’s a unique, enjoyable composition that does shout “chemical nightmare” and cost very little.  I’ve also probably got enough (100 ml) to last me the rest of my life!

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Is the “niche sampler” back?

Heat Wild Orchid Beyonce for women

No, the picture is not of a niche bottle but of a “celebuscent,” but I’ll get back to it below.  To begin this post, I want to mention that I don’t read reviews at Basenotes.net nearly as much as I used to, usually because there are more at Fragrantica.com and I find those to be more “down to earth.”  Also, I can usually tell what kind of hobbyist/aficionado the person is, whereas the Basenotes crowd tends to be more difficult to decipher.  For example, one reviewer there writes long and thoughtful reviews, yet his preferences are very different than mine, and he seems to be much more tolerant of certain aroma chemicals than I am.  So, it’s easy to be misled by such reviews, whereas the “dis ding stinks” type of review is easier to dismiss or understand (such as if the scent is animalic).

What I’ve noticed on the few occasions in recent months that I clicked on the Reviews tab at Basenotes is that so many are of obscure niche fragrances.  In the “old days” of a decade or so ago, they were often reviewing the same fragrances, and there weren’t too many that were discussed all that much.  One was L’Air du Desert Marocain, of course, but nowadays not only have never heard of the fragrance, but I also have never heard of the company!  It’s very easy not to be interested in a fragrance that is very expensive when there are so many others that fit the same bill, so to speak.  Of course, I’ve sampled a whole lot of fragrances in the last ten years (I got serious in late 2007, which I started reading Basenotes and fragrance blogs), but back then there weren’t that many that seemed special and it was a lot easier to obtain samples, often for free or in a swap (and shipping costs were lower back then too – the USPS 2 pounds for $2.90 deal was great!).

I find myself thinking, “nah, I already have something that sounds close enough,” or “that’s probably a chemical mess,” or “that sounds like a ham-fisted attempt to reinvent the vintage wheel,” on the rare occasion that I read about one of the new, expensive niche fragrances that I am not likely to own (another factor being how swapping has dried up in recent years).  So, I have largely confined myself to buying lots at very good prices or taking advantage of an occasional deal from the major online discounters.  One example of the latter is Beyonce’s Heat Wild Orchid, which I actually sampled at a Walmart and though was okay, but hardly worth pursuing.  The notes for this 2010 release (from Fragrantica) are:

…opens with a fruity trio of pomegranate, coconut water and boysenberry. A bold floral bouquet of butterfly orchid, blooming magnolia and honeysuckle is the heart. Blonde woods, skin musk and amber contribute to the overall impression of a sensual perfume.

When I saw a super deal on a 100 ml bottle, I was hesitant, but figured I could give it as a gift if I didn’t think it was worth keeping.  It doesn’t smell much like the notes to me, which in this case was a great surprise!  The first time I sprayed it on, at Walmart, it had an almost chocolate/vanilla quality, but then the next time I recognized quite a bit of tonka, and not much in the way of florals.  Over time, a smoky type quality emerged, which usually irritates me, but here it was mild enough, and works great, providing me something that usually doesn’t work in much more expensive scents.  There’s also a hint of an almost minty quality that keeps things interesting.  I mention this because it seems like the “fragrance community” is going in two entirely different different directions, and it reminds me of how more than a few people I know will only do food shopping at the “better” stores or what we used to call “health food stores” 25-30 years ago (an example is Whole Foods Market).  They spend a whole lot more on food than I do (I get most of my food from Walmart and local dollar stores).

Speaking of which, when I was last in a dollar store, I bought an EAD fragrance called Divulge, which is “inspired by” CK’s Reveal for Him.  I had opportunities to acquire Reveal at a reasonable price, but I found at least a few CK scents to be too “chemical” for my tastes and decided against.  Dollar store versions, though, tend go go lighter on some aroma chemicals, and indeed that was the case here.  I really enjoyed Divulge and certainly would have paid a bit more for the 75 ml bottle.  What I smell seems consistent with the reviews I’ve read of Reveal, and it’s certainly unique in terms of my experience.  However, an effect it had on me was to plant the notion in my mind, “you just can’t spend much money on these concoctions any more – it’s just ridiculous!  The dollar store companies are too good.”  Of course, I already have plenty to keep me occupied the rest of my life, but that was the case years ago too, when I still found myself tempted to blind buy something that turned out to be a bad decision, but curiosity got the best of me.

Those days seem to be gone for me.  Sure, if the deal is ridiculously good I’ll throw a few dollars at a bottle, but overall I think of myself as going in the opposite direction of the “niche samplers.”  What are they seeking?  Yes, unique compositions will continue to be released, but then the question becomes, “are you ever going to enjoy what you have or are you going to continue to chase after pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?”  I can imagine some people buying a huge amount of samples and hardly ever buying a bottle – they are likely those who claim to be seeking “art” in fragrances, but of course this is a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction.  One issue seems to be a lack of patience, meaning that when one of these people hears about a “special” new release, there is a desire to try it within a month or less.  But what I find myself a lot more interested in lately is wearing fragrances that I have neglected for a while, to see what my perceptions of it are like after such a hiatus.  Often, it seems like a very different fragrance!  This supplies me with the novelty factor that I’d guess is a driving force for the niche samplers, and it allowed me to appreciate “super cheapos” like Heat Wild Orchid.

 

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Is there an Error to Eros?

Eros Versace for men

I recently acquired an official spray sample of of this 2012 scent.  I wore it twice, the first being just a half spray to the lower leg.  I used my hand to waft it up to my nose, and thought it smelled quite good, though not especially complex or special.  Then I wore it again with two sprays to the chest, but this was not a pleasant experience at all.  I then wrote up my Fragrantica.com review, which is:

I can understand the appeal, but for me, this is a “poster child” fragrance for that “sticky/synthetic” quality I do not find pleasant. Perhaps more naturals would have made it work for me. As it is, I would rather wear some Jacques Bogart scents that are also on the synthetic side of things. The Parfumo site has this note “pyramid:”

Mint leaf, Italian lemon, Green apple.
Venezuelan tonka bean, Ambroxan, Geranium.
Madagascan vanilla, Atlas cedar, Virginia cedar, Vetiver, Oakmoss.

It’s an interesting question why some aroma chemicals seem easier to “hide” in a composition and in the case of scents like Eros, is the idea not to try and mask those molecules, especially ambroxan, but to go ahead and do product testing to see if the target demographic is actually attracted to the “chemical overload.  I’d guess that was the case for Cool Water for Men, with its hefty dose of dihydromyrcenol, and I certainly would admit that in some cases I can enjoy compositions where it’s easy to detect an aroma chemical that doesn’t smell “natural.”  Of course, doing so can create “abstract” compositions, which at the very least avoids the possibility of someone saying that you just smell like a dollar store bottle of imitation vanilla.

The target demographic for Eros seems to be the young, “party” crowd, which one Fragrantica reviewer points out:

Sweet club banger, like a fougere Joop, if I wore this in the late 90s when I started clubbing it would have had the same effect.
Ladies like sweet, bold stuff like this, it’s the male equivalent of what they would wear.
I’m too old for this shit.

However, one thing I noticed while sitting in a store near the exit for more than a few minutes, with dozens of people walking by, and that is the impression such scents can make on those nearby.  Often, we hear the phrase, “cologne guy,” and a few of them walked by, yet it wasn’t only the fragrance that made an olfactory impression, though of course it’s possible that I have a more “sensitive” nose than most people due to how much study I’ve devoted to these concoctions since late 2007.  In any case, these guys smelled like ambroxan and a pork and garlic dish – it was rather nauseating.  Now it may be that most Americans don’t smell that unappealing quality (since they eat typical American diets whereas I’m a vegetarian), and it’s also possible that these guys didn’t care about how they smelled going to a utilitarian store, but I do wonder whether they smell that same way when they go to night clubs and parties.

NOTE:  If I didn’t have so many fragrances already, I might buy a “clone” of Eros, such as Dionysus by Dorall Collection because I’ve found, at least with this company’s scents, the compositions tend to be a bit simpler, but also sometimes don’t use as much of the “offending” aroma chemical, so in this case I’d guess that Dionysus contains less ambroxan than Eros.  However, even if that’s the case here, I doubt that would mean it was $10 or so well spent, because the other notes are not ones that do much for me, unlike say CK’s Shock for Him, which contains a tobacco note.

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