NEV2: Initial Impressions, Part Two

Okay, my nose has had time to recover, so I’m going to dive into the second half of these samples.

  • Parfums 06130 Cedre: I’m reminded a great deal of Viktor & Rolf Antidote, which isn’t a bad thing but Antidote would be the cheaper alternative. May well do this one side by side with it, Cedre seems slightly softer.
  • CdG Red Sequoia: This stuff is very, very good. I was predisposed to like it as a concept, but the execution is just as good. I’m consistently amazed at how many unique variations there are in the men’s woody category. Less sweet and more spicy compared to Palisander. Looking forward to it, not disappointed in the least.
  • L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu: Very interesting, very green and earthy. I’m also getting a great deal of fruit, maybe a mango note a la Un Jardin Sur Le Nil? This thing is exceeding my expectations so far, I’m actually much more curious about it now than I was before.
  • Keiko Mecheri Bois De Santal: Sandalwood counterpointed with white osmanthus makes for a very interesting composition. I think this one leans only slightly towards the feminine side of unisex, but I won’t have any reservations in applying it. Quite lovely stuff, I like this note more than I did the one in the Ormonde Jayne creation.
  • Andy Tauer Une Rose Chypree: Altogether different from what I was expecting. Rose as a complement to a camphorous tea leaf that’s stealing the show, and a dash of cinnamon to break down any gender barriers. It’s unlike anything else I’ve smelled. Beautiful, simply beautiful.
  • Parfums de Nicolai New York: About all I can get is a strong sicilian lemon note, so this one’s revealing no secrets before I wear it. The note pyramid is quite intriguing, so I’ll forgive it and wait until it’s turn comes around in the review queue.

Look for the first of these twelve reviews later this week!

NEV2: Initial Impressions, Part One

My package from Luckyscent arrived this afternoon and I don’t have nearly the self-restraint to let these go untested until they each come up on their day for testing. During the first set of niche samples I put my initial impressions up on Basenotes (in this post, to be precise) and it also gave me a bit to work with in my writing, so without further ado…

  • CdG Incense Avignon: Very nice woody incense, I was on the fence about Kyoto but this one’s a different creature, it seems lighter and sweeter. Warm, spicy and pleasant. Feeling optimistic about wearing it.
  • Le Labo Rose 31: My first experience with Le Labo and this thing is impressive! Rose and a black pepper note dominate the composition, this feels to me more rugged, more wearable for me than Czech and Speake No. 88.
  • Dominico Caraceni 1913: Been curious about this one almost from the beginning. It’s nothing like I anticipated, the rose note is much more prominent than I expected, and the cypress seems to carry the base. Not getting much olibanum as is listed. Very puzzling, going to be an interesting one to wear.
  • Montale Red Vetyver: I’ve not had great luck with Montale but they’ve all been oud-centric creations in the past. RV is an altogether different creature from those. The Terre d’Hermes comparison is spot on, it came to mind immediately, but there’s also a hay note. Not a barnyard, just damp hay. Interesting, will probably give it a side-by-side wear with TdH.
  • Mazzolari Lui: The note pyramid for this one sounded divine. Very rich-smelling but there’s an overpowering animalic note, the ambergris is over-the-top. I’m hoping the story will be different once I get it on my skin but right now I’m holding out much less hope than 10 minutes ago.
  • Andy Tauer Lonestar Memories: Sweet Virginia cedar and myrrh vibes, I’m reminded of the “candy shop” opening of Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentree. I think the progression on this one will be quite interesting.

I made it about this far before my nose conked out and I don’t really want to have preconceptions that are wrong from something as simple as olfactory fatigue. In Part Two later tonight I’ll cover Parfums de Nicolai New York, CdG Red Sequoia, L’Artisan Timbuktu, Andy Tauer Une Rose Chypree, 06130 Cedre, and Keiko Mecheri Bois de Santal.

Fresh is dead, long live fresh: The Anatomy of the Discriminating Man’s Summer Scent

Before I actually tackle the matter at hand, I’d like to thank Nukapai at Basenotes for putting the question to me, on Twitter (where else?). When I commented that most of my wardrobe was for cool to cold weather and I needed more summer variety, she wanted to know what I thought made a good summery scent. I think the answer deserves a bit more than the 140 characters than I would’ve been limited to there.

I believe different people have different criteria they subconsciously rate fragrance on (or consciously rate, in instances such as these where I have to consider them). For me, these criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • How well it captures the spirit of summer.
  • Projection is above average.
  • It flourishes in hot weather, becoming more open and vibrant instead of cloying or stifling.
  • Price is reasonable enough that I don’t feel bad wearing it any old summer day or night.
  • Is, at the very least, unique enough that you don’t smell like a fresh-faced 19 year-old trying to get lucky at a South Beach club.

There are some intangibles that I’m leaving out because they’re basically the byproduct of synesthesia (we weren’t really going to critique fragrances on the color or shape they evoke, were we?) You’ll note longevity isn’t on here, mainly because I consider these to be for only a few hours of fun, and sometimes that’s all you really want out of your selection.

Now, there are tons of fragrances that hit 3 to 4 of these criteria. A good example of 4 out of 5 would be Juicy Couture Dirty English (review coming soon). Good projection, very reasonably priced (especially now that gift sets are hitting TJ Maxx for $50 and that includes a 100mL bottle), and undermarketed, at least in my area, so you’ll end up with a very unique cedar creation. But, to me, cedar isn’t really a summer-inspiring note, and on the whole it’s not quite what most people are looking for in a summer scent.

It’s that first qualifier, the spirit of summer, that’s fairly vague and largely subjective. What stirs up nostalgia for you? Summers for me meant going to the beach, but for someone that lived inland it could mean barbecues and grilling out, going fishing, fresh-cut grass, nighttime bonfires and fireflies, cranking the A/C trying to stay cool, the list is endless. I’m going to touch on a few common experiences most of us share, and see if we can find an ideal fragrance.

Fresh-cut grass is one most of us will have in common, with my apologies to those in the desert regions (Mowing grass is overrated, I promise). Fortunately this is a note that has been examined from every angle, and there are gobs and gobs of vetiver-centric scents. Vetiver, by the way, is a grass native to India and cultivated around the world, and is used in roughly 90 percent of all fragrances in the western market. Much like nearly every established house has an Amber scent, nearly all of them have a Vetiver scent. I do not consider myself an expert on the note by any means, but I’ve had occasion to try a few. The long-established champion in the market is Guerlain Vetiver, and quite honestly I don’t much care for it. It’s a bit dated-smelling, a bit too reserved and professional for my inner cynic to bear. Instead, I prefer the up-and-coming Thierry Mugler Cologne. Still vetiver-centric, but lighter and it adds a spicy note that becomes more prominent in the heat (flourishing in heat, check). It is an unabashed sillage monster, requiring a steady hand, a training permit and three days of safety instruction before you actually get to take the thing home. (Is it obvious I’m in a good mood tonight? My hyperbole hits overdrive when that happens.) Thierry Mugler still has a fair amount of exclusivity in my region, so you’ll be as different as you can hope to be in the crowded vetiver market. And, I’m happy to report, it can be found at rock-bottom prices on eBay and the typical online retailers.

Summer for me meant a lot of time at Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, lots of sunshine, lots of sand castles, and lots of suntan lotion (For the family, mind, not me. I can tan by the light of a fridge, and basically never burn.) The next time I go somewhere that has a beach, that list will expand to “lots of margaritas”. Immediately I’m going to recommend Creed’s Virgin Island Water as being a near-perfect scent memory to those times. Coconut oil, lime, light woods, sugar, rum notes, whispers of citrus, whispers of sunshine, it’s one I could wear every day during those hot months without issue. Well, with only one issue, and that’s price. I ended up with 50mL of the stuff from a flacon split, and that still amounted to about $60. If you’re buying your own bottle it’s not cheap, and eBay isn’t a great idea because there are so many fakes of Creed products out there. I’ve previously reviewed Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts and it’s close but no cigar, where Virgin Island Water is well-defined and realistic, SSSB is chemical and artificial. Recently I came across another fragrance in the same vein, and it shows a lot of promise. I’m referring to Burberry Summer for Men, which was released in 2007 along with Virgin Island Water, and was slightly more heavy on lemon but was still very pleasant, as well as being much more accessible and reasonably priced. If you’re in a position to try Virgin Island Water don’t pass up the chance, but if you’re not go give Burberry Summer a try. I’ve also heard many wonderful things about Aramis Bermuda Tonic, but haven’t been able to track down a sample.

The other constant for me in the dog days is staying inside trying to cool off, and sometimes a cold-smelling cologne is just a little more reinforcement. My collection is admittedly low on these, I have one that I use consistently and one niche creation that I’d be using a lot if money was no object. The one I use the most in this category would be Bath and Body Works Mountain Frost. This one is sadly discontinued but can be found with only modest searching. It projects well and is hard to overapply, does well in hot weather, and is fairly unique thanks to it’s now discontinued status, and I believe I paid $24 retail for a 4.0 oz bottle. It has a definite barbershop vibe, if that’s not your thing this will probably not fare you well. One niche creation that I absolutely loved in the hot summer months was CdG x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. Downright chilling, this one’s likely my next high-end purchase. Words don’t really do this one justice so I won’t belabor the point.

So we’ve come up with 5 fragrances: Mugler Cologne, Virgin Island Water, Burberry Summer, Bath and Body Works Mountain Frost, and Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. For my personal experiences, I could bounce between Mugler Cologne and Virgin Island Water all summer long and be content; I think they’re both ideal representations of what I want in a summer scent, each by their own means but sharing the same ends; they’re modern, they ‘fit’ with no thought required, they’re both laid-back, and they both take to hot weather like they were born for the job. I encourage you guys to write me with your experiences and insight to summer scents, and what is ideal for you as well.

Thierry Mugler A*Men – The Ten Ton Pacifist

Recently on Basenotes I ran the first-ever Basenotes March Madness, and one of the criteria for a fragrance being in the running was to have the most reviews. A*Men led the pack by a huge margin, but it’s also probably the most divisive fragrance mentioned on the boards. It’s very polarizing, you either love it or hate it. I’m firmly ensconced in the “love it” group.
The bottle comes a few ways, either the black rubber bottle with blue star, or the metal bottle which is refillable at any Thierry Mugler counter, such as the Macy’s in Louisville. I have to admit I’m a huge fan of the bottle both ways, it’s so distinct, so memorable. But let’s be honest, we care about the inside of the bottle more than the outside.
Given how polarizing the fragrance really is I can’t do anything other than give my opinion, and hope you’ll keep it in mind on your journey with the fragrance. It’s sweet and chocolatey, yet very complex, especially for what’s still essentially a gourmand. There’s plenty of notes jostling about, there’s a peppermint note that most people find gives it a sort of “edge”, a metaphorical spearhead for the rest of the gourmand notes to come; chocolate, coffee, and caramel. I suppose you first have to enjoy chocolate to like it at all, and then on top of that, you have to like it in gratuitous amounts because there’s plenty of it in Angel Men. Projection and longevity are both in a class of their own, so spray responsibly. It’s the definition of a sillage monster, it enters the room before you do and leaves after. Despite the larger-than-life cloud this thing projects, I consider it a “comfort scent” much like people have comfort foods, and if I’m feeling under the weather I’m very likely going to reach for A*Men. This is a cool-to-cold weather fragrance, it can grow stifling very quickly in hot weather (something I had happen when my sweat brought back the night’s application of it in the middle of a game of DDR, an admittedly less than pleasant experience).
That’s it. That’s really all there is to it. So why all the vitriol on the community boards? Mostly because there is not a small number of drama queens on board, and having a big opinion is better and more memorable than having a small one. Does it merit such colorful similes as “like a cat peeing on a bag of cotton candy”? Not to me. If you start wheezing and going into paroxysms after trying A*Men shoot me an email and I’ll apologize profusely and revise my opinion on it. Until that happens, though, take my review with however much salt you require and go find your own opinion on this divisive creature.

Niche Experiment Volume Two

Luckyscent is getting more business from me as I delve back into reviewing niche. Expect to see reviews for:

Andy Tauer Lonestar Memories
Andy Tauer Une Rose Chypree
CdG Series 2 (Red): Sequoia
CdG Series 3 (Incense): Avignon
Domenico Caraceni 1913
Keiko Mecheri Bois de Santal
L’Artisan Timbuktu
Le Labo Rose 31
Mazzolari Lui
Montale Red Vetyver
Parfums 06130 Cedre
Parfums de Nicolai New York