30.10.14

Comme Des Garcons For Pharrell Williams - Girl: Unhappy!

Being myself a Comme Des Garcons aficionado, I don't deny that the news about this collaboration with Pharrell Williams left me a bit surprised. Yes, CDG delivered a bunch of *fancy* streetwear-inspired collections in the past (especially in their *Play* line) but, for the most part, I think their aesthetic is very distant from diamond rings / earrings and revised ranger's hats. I'm surely missing something here because there must be something else beside, um, mere commercial purposes that links these two entities but, when I think about Comme Des Garcons, what immediately comes to mind is their unmistakeable drop-crotch pants or their most avant-garde / punk-ish designs. I can't help it. Bascially because that's what I always liked about the brand. I can honestly live without their doodle-style red-hearts logos.

With that said, the fragrance is nothing more than a decent spicy woody concoction with floral facets. It opens with a leafy / green violet note paired to pepper. A smooth and kind of milky accord provide a fig-like vibe and some entertaining juxtapositions between transparent notes and opaque ones. The fragrance then turns into a darker synth woody / incensey drydown that dangerously borders into plastic-y woodyamber territories. That's it. 

It's nice and, depending on your tolerance to woodyambers, it's also pleasant to wear but, while feeling *smarter* than most celebuscents available on the market, it really adds NOTHING to the Comme Des Garcons roster. In other words I would say it's a trite CDG and a good celebuscent but given that my interest towards this fragrance was mainly because of the CDG's involvement, I'll have to stick to the *trite* aspect of it.

All in all I would suggest this to either Comme Des Garcons novices or to the brand's completists. People who don't have a special fondness towards the brand and are simply into *interesting* fragrances, might want to look somewhere else.

Given Kaws' involvement in the design of the bottle, this might become a collector's item pretty soon.

Rating: 6.5/10

22.10.14

Goti - Smoke: A Hidden Gem.



Goti is an italian brand mainly focused on high-end and avant-garde jewelry using the most unusual materials together with precious metals and gems. Sometime in 2008 they collaborated with Santa Maria Novella's perfumers to start their own line of fragrances and delivered three compositions (Black, Earth and White) that, for the most part, had flown under the radars. Both because they were poorly distributed and not advertised at all.

In 2013, they re-designed the packaging, reformulated their previous range (this time working with historical florentine pharmaceutical lab from the 30s, Laboratorio Therapeutico M.R.) and introduced two new perfumes of which Smoke is my personal standout. Now, given the name, if you're expecting a fireplace type of smoky thing, get ready for a disappointment because Smoke is anything but that. Instead, if you're after a radiant and modern incensey thing, you'll have much to love here.

Smoke opens with a sour-ish and fizzy accord that makes me literally salivating. On one side there's the red and slightly sweet fruity vibe of pomegranate juxtaposed to the zesty and aromatic quality of the ginger. It feels sparkling, joyful and even light-hearted if you want but never dull. The top notes tame down pretty soon but they keep on lingering throughout the rest of the evolution of the fragrance which is made out of a darker, simple yet pretty impeccably executed crispy incense with woody notes as reinforcement. There's a nose-tingling thing going on throughout that might vaguely remember of gasoline or other kind of combustibles. The woods are smooth and elegant as opposed to the sickening powerful synth-woody notes we often experience in modern masculines and eastern-themed compositions.

Overall, I would suggest Smoke to those who like the more incensey Comme Des Garcons or certain fragrances by Olivier Durbano (especially Citrine, Lapis Philosophorum and Heliotrope). It's a modern aesthetic, restrained, quirky and effortlessly elegant.

Quick note on the packaging which is simple but very striking in a post-Owens way. The bottle design is pretty much the same for all of their fragrances but you can choose to have your bottle in chrome-finish porcelain (cheaper) or plain metal (much more expensive). Big 100ml bottles come with a leather bulb-pump which is simply stunning. All of the bottles come is a plain black box wrapped in a black leather belt.

Rating: 7-7.5/10

18.10.14

Rancé 1795 l L'Aigle De la Victoire: Dare If You Can!

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

L'Aigle De La Victoire, from the Rancè 1795 Collecion Impériale, is an uncompromising, straight-forward and extremely potent skanky / woody leather that immediately gained a spot up there together with the most popular testosterone-monsters in this genre.

I'm gonna give you a bunch of parameters so that you can't say you haven't been warned of what kind of monster this is. Rien and Leather Oud are the first ones that come to mind. If not for objective similarities (which are there BTW), surely for their striking and uncompromising iterations of leather…but then also, Boadicea The Victorious Complex, Mazzolari Lui, Montecristo, Oud 27, Yatagan, Parfum D'Habit…ok I'll stop it here.

So, it's an hardcore sweaty leather with a thick animalic presence and green-resinoid (incense) facets. A dirty patch note reinforces the overall dark-woody vibe by providing a kind of creepy vein. The most interesting aspect though, is that L'Aigle De La Vctoire is built around an extremely classic bone structure that brings to mind of several masculine chypres of the past while still feeling anything but derivative. Again, thick, ballsy, daring and, in the end, even reasonably priced. Kudos to Rancè 1795 for delivering such a anachronistic and unapologetic beauty.

Tremendous sillage and beyond exceptional longevity. Skank-lovers, you've been warned. The others, should probably stay carefully away from this.

Rating: 8.5-9/10

16.10.14

Masque Fragranze - Russian Tea: The Warmest Winter.



My first instinct would be to start with "what a surprise!" but then, if I think about it, this is more like a confirmation than actually a surprise. The work Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are doing with their Masque line is definitely something not to overlook and Russian Tea represents just the newest chapter in their already important and noteworthy path started with humongous releases such as Montecristo, Tango and Terralba.

For Russian Tea they worked with cult-perfumer Jacques Rasquinet who previously collaborated with the likes of Naomi Goodsir (for whom he delivered what have become one of my all-time favorites, Bois D'Ascese) and Andrea Maack amongst others. An extremely talented perfumer who's rapidly becoming the undisputed master of smoky notes. The result of this collaboration strikes as a sort of hypothetical lovechild of Guerlain Herba Fresca and the much overlooked Eau Du Fier by Annick Goutal…well, this is honestly kind of a stretch but it might give you an idea on the axis this fragrance moves on, anyway. Smoky, aromatic, dark, fresh, leathery and…bittersweet.




There's clearly a mint note up top which while completely skipping the typical (and annoying) toothpaste effect, it's immediately joined by the most realistic smoky black-tea rendition I've experienced in quite a while. The pairing of the two gives birth to a fantastic juxtaposition all played around moderately sweet fresh notes and darker smoky ones. It's funny how in this phase, while smelling somewhat refreshing, the fragrance doesn't fail to show its darker side with an overall wintery vibe. It's a modern accord made out of bittersweet juxtapositions and just a hint of red-fruitiness. A modern accord where smoke it's relevant but not overwhelming and where tea is left to express and unveil all of its aromatic and evocative qualities. 

Slowly, the base starts lurking in the back… 




The evolution from the opening to the middle phase and the drydown is slow, smooth and completely flawless. A much darker central accord of smoky woods remarks it presence and takes form while joined by a leather-incense combo with some immortelle providing extra body. It gets darker and darker with time. Deeper and deeper, warmer and warmer, drier and drier… At traces, it made me think of a more aromatic version of Comme Des Garcons Black (the immortelle-leather-incense combo is really not that distant) but whereas the CDG feels urban and sort of punk-ish, Russian Tea pushes on melancholy and coziness by evoking immense rural landscapes during winter. Traditional rituals, historic buildings, fireplaces and time spent meditating and traveling. 

Now, I'm impressed for way too many reasons. First of all, this a fragrance which is a total pleasure to wear on many different levels. It'd make one hell of a signature as well as something distinctive for special occasions. It's easy to like but has so much substance. Daring but not weird, solidly built and conceived and, most of all, perfectly sized. Longevity is beyond good while silage is discreet but remarkable. An entirely elegant composition that's able to standout and feel distinctive without being necessarily odd or pretentiously *arty*. Masque's Montecristo was one of my favorite fragrances of 2013 and Russian Tea will most definitely be amongst my favorites of 2014. With that said, there's really no doubts on my side that Masque is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting and solid outfits of this second decade of 2000. 

Kudos!

Rating: 8.5-9/10

15.10.14

Guest Reviewer Of The Day: Claire Vukcevic aka ClaireV.


Claire Vukcevic is a part-time blogger on the blog Fragrancedaily.com and member of Basenotes (ClaireV). She spends money she doesn’t have on perfumes and then writes novel-length reviews of them. But she can’t help it. 

For other reviews by Claire Vukcevic you might want to check Basenotes or Fragrance Daily


Chypre Palatin by Parfums MDCI - Palatial Chypre

I am a big Henry James fan. Or at least I used to be until one day at school, my fifth form English Lit teacher pulled a copy of The Golden Bowl out of my school bag and gasped, “You’re reading this? Oh dear me, no – this is far too difficult for you. It will put you off James for life.” But I had already read The Golden Bowl. In fact, I had waltzed through it, not realizing that it was supposed to be difficult. But do you know what? From that day forward, I have struggled with Henry James. Once someone points out that something is difficult or complex, it becomes so. Like someone flipping that switch in your brain between unthinking enjoyment and sudden, painful self-awareness.

I love Chypre Palatin with my unthinking part of my brain. I know, on a purely intellectual level, that it is a Henry James type of scent – grand, complex, full of moving parts clicking into place. The notes list on Basenotes alone contains twenty separate notes, about two thirds of which I can’t pick up at all. It doesn’t matter. I slip into Chypre Palatin with a shiver of unadulterated pleasure every time, just as easily as my unthinking brain once slid into Henry James. 

Chypres are not usually so easy for me – there is something about them that require me to switch the analysis part of my brain on. Something about the bristling bergamot beginning and the bitter backbone of mosses has always called to mind that scene in Titantic where Rose sees a mother is tapping her six-year old daughter on the spine to get her to straighten up. I admire the formality of chypres, and their immensely ordered, complex structure, but I find it difficult to breathe easily within their confines. 



But Chypre Palatin, I am beginning to understand, is one of those strange hybrids between
chypre and oriental that manage to combine the grandeur of the former with the comfortable, sweet, oozing sensuality of the latter. A soft landing for the bitter Chypre DNA, so to speak. Chypre Palatin belongs, therefore, to a special group of perfumes that includes Puredistance M, Jubilation 25, Une Rose Chypree, and even Guerlain’s masterpiece, Vol de Nuit. What these perfumes have in common is a chypre-like dressing of moss and bergamot, and maybe some other green, bitter, or herbal accents (usually up top), but combined with a base that feels utterly oriental, so that the fragrance starts its journey in an upright position and ends it in a supine position on a soft divan covered with furs and minks in a Sultan’s harem. These chypre-oriental hybrids are massively built, bristling with ambition, and big enough feet to stand in (and tower over) several genres at once – chypre, oriental, leather, animalics, and so on. They are not so much unisex as they are omni-sex. 


Chypre Palatin, for example, has a brief bergamot beginning, like a blush of first light over
the horizon at dawn, and a heart of authentic oakmoss that goes on forever, but these accents are married to a lush vanilla and a warmly animalic castoreum in the base, ensuring that the whole thing feels comfortably sensual. It is very masculine in feel, like Puredistance M, but the vanilla and castoreum in the base make it so cozy and sensual that I really can’t imagine its testosterone-fueled heart would put any woman off. It feels grand, dusty, old-school, reassuringly masculine, and solid. 

Chypre Palatin strikes me as a modern-day Vol de Nuit, in a way. Not in terms of smell, but for the fact that they are both grand, baroque-scaled perfumes recalling a more romantic past than the time in which they were created. Also, despite all of that ambitious scale and reach, they both feel perfectly intimate and suitable for quiet, homebound pleasures. Chypre Palatin might be the Golden Bowl of its genre, but I enjoy it in that simple, instinctive way I used to enjoy Henry James before the thinking part of my brain was switched on. Just don’t listen to anyone who tells you it is a difficult or complex thing.

Rating: 9/10


   

14.10.14

Hermessence Cuir D'Ange: A *New* Leather.


First of all first: Finally, an Hermessence I like.

I actually like a bunch of them and while I think JC Ellena is one of the undisputed masters of modern perfumery, I can't still count myself amongst the hardcore fans of Hermessence's *watercolor* interpretations of fragrances…with that said, Cuir D'Ange, just like Osmanthe Yunnan and a few others from the line, it's a tremendous exception.

I'd divide leathers in two main groups for this review. On one side I'll put the classic, animalic-driven floral leathers a-la Cuir De Russie and Knize 10 (to name just two of the most popular in this category). Well, I'm a total sucker for this interpretation of the main theme but the problem with these old-school type of compositions is that they gave birth to a plethora of clones (and semi-clones) that while I still quite like most of them, I also think they're all more or less kind of redundant (Cuir Cannage, Cuir Mauresque, Xerjoff Homme, Royal English Leather, Etro Gomma…and countless others). On the other side, there are the modern and hyper modern leathers a-la Cuir Pleine Fleurs, Alan Cumming's Cumming, Comme Des Garcons EDP 2011, Askew…

Well, Cuir D'Ange, while feeling somewhat classic (as in *classy*) it's also unquestionably modern. It's a new take on the floral-leather theme achieved by learning the lesson of the classics and bringing it to completely new territories. Yes, all of the Hermessence's hallmarks are there and make of Cuir D'Ange such a refreshing and novel delivery in a genre that's too often becoming a caricature of itself. I won't spend many words in dissecting notes as this is one of those fragrances I love (and encourage you) to experience as a whole. Let me only tell you it totally smells like today's Hermes. An incredibly sophisticated and an ultra-elegant composition where everything is perfectly in check as only a true master can do.

Completely genderless.

Rating: 8.5-9/10

26.9.14

Comme Des Garcons: (Not So) Wonderoud.

I'm pretty ambivalent about Wonderoud as my assessment goes in two different directions depending on how how approach it.

As a Comme Des Garcons lover, I think this brings almost nothing new to the table of woody fragrances they delivered thus far but, at the same time, if I approach it as a whatever mainstream wood-centered composition, this is vastly head-and-shoulders above the average quality available from similarly targeted / priced offerings. This is basically an average quality niche type of fragrance, sold at department-store prices.

In my perception, Wonderoud basically starts from the same bone-structure used in CDG's previous Wonderwood (and to a lesser extend Blue Santal). A combo of cedarwood, pepper, vetiver and sandalwood to which they now added a smooth but remarkable oud note. The final effect is of an intensely woody fragrance with greenish nuances. Dry but not harsh, mannered but not too affected, safe but not dull and pretty well rounded.

At the same time though, I find it a bit nondescript and not particularly distinctive. The cedarwood is not as prominent as in others deliveries by the same house and, as usual with CDG, they're still able to skip that woody harshness (typical of certain woodyambers) that seems to overpopulate department-store type of masculines. It's a well done fragrance, pleasant to wear and pretty long lasting…yet, I can't say I'm completely sold.

Downline: I think Wonderoud would make a nice option for anyone looking for a safer scent but wants to avoid smelling like a whatever department store shelf. It'd also make a nice introduction to the most daring deliveries by this house and, more in general, to western oud-themed stuff. CDG's aficionados might find it a bit redundant…

On a side note, it's pretty clear that the branch of Comme Des Garcons owned by Puig (basically all the fragrances that come in the oval-shaped flacon) are targeted to a more *generic* audience and , in this context, they still fear no rivals IMO. A bit of a disappointment though, came with the fact that Wonderoud is more expensive than your usual Puig-CDG. Is that because it includes the word *oud* in its name?

Very mild thumbs up. 

Rating: 6.5-7/10