GreysolonGreysolon's Perfume Reviews

1 - 10 of 88

4 Awards
Like many of the newer Serge Lutens' fragrances, Baptême du Feu seems created to have a gentler, less conspicuous personality. There's none of the oak leaves and dirt of Chene, no Fleurs d'Orange flower bombs, and certainly none of the sticky pine resin and charred bark of Fille en aiguilles.

Baptême du Feu takes a while to dry down before its personality emerges. When it does, it's a nice, warm, well mannered, well blended fragrance. While those qualities seem complimentary, there's a downside to being just nice. Aside from a bit of ginger and powdery carnation, nothing stands out to provide a defining character. The overall effect is a pleasant, spicy warmth revealing a pedigree in Lutens' Five O'clock Gingembre and Vitriol d'Œillet. But those fragrances have personality and backbone; they make a statement. Baptême du Feu is meek by comparison.

Despite the family bloodlines, Baptême du Feu has more in common with L'Homme Sage by Divine. Both fragrances have a very similar structure based on warm, blended spice notes. While Baptême du Feu is slightly sweeter with a touch of powdery carnation, L'Homme Sage has of range and variety of spice accords endowing it with a depth of character and definition Baptême du Feu cannot match.

If it can be said without sounding like an insult, Baptême du Feu is, at best, nice. Unfortunately, "nice" means it lacks the personality of Luten's typically bold fragrances. I miss that quality in the newest entries from this house.

5 Awards
A few days ago I visited my favorite local book shop and was surprised to find the owners now stock the Thymes' line of candles, room scents, bath products and perfumes. I've used their candles for years but didn't have a clue the company made perfume. Not only that, I've always thought the name "Thymes" sounded English so I just assumed, as any perfume snob would, I was buying a fine, imported product. Nope. Turns out the house is located in Minnesota, ya sure, you betcha! Well, with quality of this level Minneapolis must be the new Paris!

So I decided to try Eucalyptus first. It seems to me if a perfumer can achieve a balanced scent using eucalyptus -the aromatic note most likely to be overwhelming- then this might be a line of fragrances worth exploring.

As the fragrance dries down lemon, petitgrain and eucalyptus are balanced and beautifully ethereal. There's no mentholated, sinus clearing punch in the face one might expect from a fragrance called Eucalyptus. Once everything settles this turns out to be a modest, pleasant scent that wears very comfortably. The petitgrain balances the lemon with a light orangey note and the woody base picks up a nice aromatic quality from the eucalyptus. And while eucalyptus can be sensed in the blend, it never overwhelms and simply keeps everything open and airy.

Even though this is a light, quite modest scent, it smells very natural and is satisfying to wear. I imagine it would be very office friendly. Nothing earth shattering in it's formulation, just a well crafted scent. Who ever composed it has a skilled hand balancing ingredients. The price is good too: about $30 US for 50 ml.

Finally, for the past few years members of Parfumo have debated how best to stem the tide of fragrance regulations coming out of the EU. One recurring suggestion is the full disclosure of ingredients so consumers can make an informed decision about a fragrance. The common counter argument is that the ingredient list is proprietary information. Well, not so with Thymes. To my non-chemist's eye it appears the list of the ingredients discloses everything in the bottle. This might be helpful for anyone with specific allergies.

4 Awards
Of all the essences that make up the vast vocabulary of perfumery few elicit as much mixed up, love-hate sentiment as patchouli. Examples of this can be found in reviews for patchouli-centric fragrances which read like regret filled soliloquies to failed relationships…

“I love patchouli, I really do, but…”

My love-hate relationship with the essence generally follows this pattern: I spritz on a patchouli rich fragrance and for the first hour or so it’s heaven. The seductive tendrils of scent are so exotic and alluring. But patchouli is also tenacious and it’s not long before the smell is omnipresent and clingy. Eventually this constant embrace leads to the feeling of an oily diffusion creeping over my skin making me itchy and claustrophobic.

I love patchouli, I really do, but…

…but I really do love patchouli and I wanted to find a scent that wasn’t a perfume boa constrictor. So I enlisted the braintrust of Parfumo’s “Fragrance Consulting Forum” for suggestions. I described my ideal patchouli perfume as having a dry, leafy setting of the essence. Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 was suggested by several members and it fits the description of my imagined fragrance perhaps just a little too well.

Borneo 1834 is -almost- a lovable curmudgeon of a scent. Like all lovable curmudgeons, it has a gruff, contrary exterior before revealing its warmer, slightly softer heart. But even when Borneo 1834 settles down it occasionally lets out a grumpy, contrarian harrumph.

This is not a fragrance for those seeking instant gratification. The first 20 minutes of development is downright rough and unsettled as cocoa, spices, patchouli and a dry, herbal accord vie for supremacy. When patchouli finally reaches its position of dominance, the cocoa and spices settle into an arid base reminiscent of other Christopher Sheldrake creations such as Santal Majuscule and Ambre Sultan. The difference is that Borneo 1834 also has the dry, herbal accord to create the illusion of withered patchouli leaves, which is the soul of the fragrance. Serge Lutens describes it this way: “Why did I pick 1834? That was the year Parisians discovered patchouli. In those days, it came wrapped in silk.” The island of Borneo was on the shipping route between the Asian silk producing nations and Europe and patchouli was folded into the fabric to repel insects.

Sheldrake is a genius at creating a sense of touch through perfume so the crinkly feeling of dried patchouli leaves is right at your fingertips. It's executed perfectly. But he could have made this a more approachable, friendly fragrance by incorporating the contrasting element of silkiness suggested by Lutens. Instead, the curmudgeony roughness of the opening stays with the fragrance and gives Borneo 1834 a vetiver like stoicism rather than the seductive, come hither quality usually associated with patchouli. Borneo 1834 is a wonderful creation, but it demands a particular sense of confidence and character from those who wear it. If you’re looking for a drier patchouli accord with a more inviting personality then something like Chanel Coromandel might be a better choice.

6 Awards
If you want a straightforward, this-is-how-it-smells account of Noir de Noir you should read Flaconneur’s review (below). His description is perfect. Seriously, spot on, absolutely perfect. Not only does he list the same elements I discern in Noir de Noir but his descriptions so closely resemble my own associations (semi-sweet chocolate?!) it’s as though he’s channelled the experience straight from my imagination. Well, except that even in my imagination I don’t write nearly as well as Flaconneur. Anyway, since Flac has taken care of all that I’m going to opt for a more visceral take on this incredible fragrance.

Noir de Noir puts me into a wonderful state of sensory overload. It’s like being slightly buzzed on perfume. As a matter of fact, if I could afford to drink the stuff, I probably would. It’s a warm cloud of chocolate liquor and roses lightly dusted with cocoa talc and tinged with the sweaty, pheromone laced notes of saffron, truffles and oud.
Oh, dear lord, I'm starting to feel a little weak just thinking about it.
The scent of Noir de Noir is one of the few things in life that can cause me to swoon. Yeah, me, the guy who would otherwise be terrified of simply uttering the word “swoon” in public is swooning.
Hang on a sec, I’m still feeling a little flushed.
If you want to ratchet up the effect of Noir de Noir even more then I suggest you try this layering recipe for 'Rose Infused Grand Marnier Chocolates': Let’s say you and your significant other are going out for a nice, intimate dinner. You will, of course, be wearing Noir de Noir. Your companion, however, should wear an orange-neroli fragrance like Serge Lutens’ Fleur d’Orange.
Oh. Dear. Lord. I feel a swoon coming on…

7 Awards
Since my interest in perfume didn’t hit full on obsession until midlife, there are gaps in my knowledge of classic fragrances and genres. As a result, I think I’m intuitively drawn to fragrances that are fairly basic and straightforward as a way of wrapping my nose around traditional forms. To my surprise, these intuitive choices occasionally turn out to be simply wonderful, well crafted, perfumes. I know it’s cliche, but quality never goes out of fashion and sometimes conservative, uncomplicated scents need to be part of one's wardrobe for more formal occasions. Vitriol d'Œillet fits this role perfectly.

At this point, you’re probably shaking your head in disbelief and wondering, “Wait a minute! Conservative? Uncomplicated? Is this is really a review for a Serge Lutens’ perfume?” Yes, it really is and, no, I haven't mixed it up with a review for another fragrance. And here's another surprise: when describing Vitriol d'Œillet, the adjectives conservative and uncomplicated also combine to create the fragrant accord of elegance. Yes, you've read that correctly, elegance. There’s another word not often associated with the scents of Le Grande Serge. I stumbled across this description of Vitriol d'Œillet by Victoria, author of the blog Bois de Jasmin, and I think it gets to the heart of why I find it so elegant and proper:
“I find it easier to describe Vitriol d’Oeillet …by describing what it is not, rather than what it is. It is not a romantic perfume nor is it an austere perfume. It is not modern, yet it is not old-fashioned either.”

When I imagine the fragrant details of Vitriol d’Oeillet, my mind instantly conjures up a carnation boutonnière; although the perfume presents a deeper, soft focus idealization of carnation. That soft focus comes from a light dusting of carnation scented talc which keeps the flower from being high pitched and too ephemeral. Then there's one of my favorite accords in all of perfumery; the use of pepper to bring out the natural spiciness of florals. With a little help from sandalwood, the namesake vitriol accomplishes this task beautifully. Finally, this perfume boutonnière even has a few sprigs of bitter greenery (violet leaf?) pinned to the stem of the carnation which prevents the fragrance from becoming too homogenous.

While the name Vitriol d'Œillet and its description on the Lutens' website sound ferocious, there is nothing about this fragrance that is vitriolic. And while I've described this as a soft, elegant fragrance, it is truly unisex and would serve to adorn men's attire with a floral accent now that boutonnières are a thing of the past.

6 Awards
The perfumes of Farmacia Santissima Annunziata are a mystery to me. How can the house which created a beautiful, luxurious perfume like Ambra Nera also turn out lackluster fragrances like Isos, Regina and Takis? So it's somewhat a relief to try Arabico which manages, at least, to occupy the middle ground between the extremes of the line.

Arabico can best be described as a peppery, resinous, dry cedar fragrance. It’s quite pleasant and when it comes to projection and longevity it holds its own just fine. Unfortunately, as Arabico dries down it becomes obvious Iso E Super will provide the dominant accord in its cedar base. Why do I say “unfortunately”? Because as much as I like the scent of Iso E, it lacks subtlety. Even at low levels there’s no way to really turn down the volume or alter its monolithic character. Natural essences have shades and subtlety enabling them take on the character of the overall fragrance. Iso E, on the other hand, isn’t going smell like anything but Iso E and its take charge character keeps it from truly melding with other notes. When it is used successfully, as it is in Terre d’Hermes, Iso E is juxtaposed with strong, contrasting notes. Arabico lacks that counter balance in its structure. It seems to be built with the idea of highlighting Iso E’s already dominant qualities.

And that’s the trap with Iso E.

When a fragrance like Terre d’Hermes strikes commercial gold it’s easy to attribute its success to the novel aroma chemical at its heart. It’s no wonder, because Iso E is a kind of mega-accord that can come across like a fully formed perfume. Molecule 1 anyone?. It’s an essence that needs special care so it doesn’t smell like every other perfume that contains Iso E.

Now that I’ve made Arabico out to be something of a synthetic monster, let me backtrack a bit. As I said, it’s a pleasant fragrance and not at all big or overbearing. It wears very easily. But for the full bottle price of €115/$130 I would expect something with a more developed character and composition along the lines of Terre d’Hermes or Divine’s L’Homme Infini.

8 Awards
Just as winemakers pride themselves on the terroir of their vineyards to contribute particular notes and flavors to their wines, Richard Lüscher Britos utilizes this concept to instill a particular sense of place to their Terroir Perfumes. Each perfume in the line is named for map coordinates that specify the region of the world from which its natural ingredients are harvested. In this case, 44°N 03°E is meant to embody the terroir of the South of France.

44°N 03°E is formulated with wild lavender, juniper and pine native to the region. It's a beautiful, uncomplicated fragrance created by, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, Andy Tauer. It opens with lemon and a slight candy sweetness which I assume is the “glazed chestnut” note. It’s not long before lavender joins in and eventually becomes the dominant scent. As the lemon fades gracefully into the background, pine and juniper rise up, filling in the gaps and blending seamlessly with the lavender. And I mean seamlessly. If there is any aspect of lavender that can connect with conifers, or vice versa, Tauer has managed to do it. A little sharpness in the lavender finds its mate in the conifers while the resinous quality of the conifers finds its mate in the lavender. It’s really beautiful how everything blends.

I'm probably being hyper-aware but there is one scent component associated with natural perfumery I don’t care for and it's ever so slightly detectable in 44°N 03°E. Sometimes essences from all natural plant extracts can go flat and meld into a camphorous, sappy amalgam. If you go to a health food store and walk along the shelves of natural cosmetics and perfume oils you will smell what I’m trying to describe. There seems to be a LITTLE bit of that odor in 44°N 03°E. However, the lavender and conifers maintain plenty of dominance and never go flat so this issue is unlikely to be detectable away from the skin. Again, this is a very minor complaint and aside from that, 44°N 03°E is a wonderful perfume.

A big thank you to MiaVonTrost for providing US Parfumo members with samples for a pass around!

3 Awards
Even though Isos suffers from some of the same issues of projection and longevity that plague other fragrances from Farmacia Santissima Annunziata, it also has unique qualities I find appealing. Whether or not those qualities are unique enough or appealing enough to pay the full bottle prices of this house is another matter.

Instead of focusing on Isos's shortcomings, there is a particular aspect of the perfume some may find to their liking. If you live in a warm weather climate you may find it suitable as a deep, yet cooling sort of cologne. That is, as long as you don’t expect Isos to perform like a more potent, longer lasting edt or edp.

It fills this cologne-like requirement in two ways. The first is that Isos provides an actual cooling effect, felt as a slight tingling, mint/menthol sensation when spritzed on the skin. Similarly, each time I catch its scent I get a slight sensation of menthol. Now, before I put anyone off, let me emphasize the word “slight." It really is just a VERY mild sensation.

Isos also has a textural aura I find cooling. It's a rough, gray scale quality that I experience like the shades of white to gray seen in a cumulus cloud as it passes in front of the sun on a hot day. That shadowy gray is built on Isos’s woody base and leans towards a balanced blend of juniper, cedar and vetiver as its dominant accord. Its pleasantly rough edge comes from pepper and clove which are well blended with the base.

Now, after mining Isos for all those attributes we come to the issue of cost: 95€/$130. If you decide to try Isos and find you like the effects I’ve described -but are allergic to the price- I would suggest trying Eau Profonde by Thirdman. It's a cologne with an unusually deep base that is less expensive and has a similar gray scale cooling sensation of clouds passing in front of the sun.

4 Awards
Even though I shouldn't put too much stock in the notes listed for a perfume, those listed for Regina are pretty vague: fruity notes, floral notes, amber notes… whatever...

Unfortunately, that’s how Regina comes out of the bottle; kind of weak, vague and nebulous. Thankfully, the rose essence doesn’t wait for its turn in the developmental queue. It makes its stand right out of the sprayer. It’s really a nice rose note too and, for a time, it saves Regina from being an insipid, ambiguous, not very fruity floral.

Speaking of notes, what really captured my attention were scents NOT listed in the pyramid. As the amber accord begins to appear Regina develops notes reminiscent of slightly bitter honey and boozy rum. When combined with the rose that has managed to hang on, they create a great match to the amber. Too bad the overall longevity of Regina isn’t better. With a life expectancy of about 2 hours there isn’t much time to enjoy this aspect of the fragrance.

I will say this for Regina, some might enjoy it as a warm weather amber. It’s light, wears close to the skin and perks up a bit in the heat. The temperature today was about 80 f and each time I thought Regina had gone flat, I was surprised when a little exertion or perspiration brought it back to life. To be honest, however, I wouldn't be swayed to buy Regina hoping its middling fragrance might be resuscitated by a summer breeze.

4 Awards
I know that the pyramid of notes for a fragrance exists only as an analogy of scent. A kind of metaphor for the experience the house wants us to believe we're buying. Really, it's nothing more than the first line of advertising aimed at those of us who should know better. But being an optimist (i.e. a sucker), I looked at the pyramid for Takis and my imagination immediately concocted a woody perfume with floral highlights and subtle notes of absinthe.

Takis opens with a metallic, brassy citrus accord. It’s almost clangorous, like the pealing of bells. Not a bad start. Then thyme enters the fray and helps settle things down. Since this version of thyme is more woody than herbal it creates a nice link through the heart down to the base. Another sign of a well thought out fragrance. But the good news is short lived. Not long afterwards, rose makes an all too brief appearance and that brevity marks the beginning of the end. So much for Takis being the unique floral fragrance I originally imagined.

When artemisia and the “woody notes” start welling up from the base it turns out to be a full scale takeover bid for the entire fragrance. It’s also when Takis begins evaporating away into a skin scent.

Artemisia is wormwood, the source of absinthe. But this not the medicinal, absinthe liquor version of artemisia. This is a distillation of the shrub's woody bits which creates a dry, aromatic, camphorous accord. Combine that with all the other “woody notes” and there’s not much of a chance for flowers to grow. Occasionally, a single ylang-ylang blossom might manage to bloom here and there but it can't provide enough fragrance to perfume this lumber yard. Thankfully Takis is so anemic by this point that no one will notice anyway.

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