Where to start? Part 9 (10 classic/modern designers)

10 modern/classic designer fragrances well worth their salt and staples in many a wardrobe.

Chanel-Egoïste

Notes: Sicilian tangerine, Brazilian rosewood, coriander, Damask rose, sandalwood, vanilla, ambrette seed

What Antaeus was to the 80′s, Egoïste was to the 90′s. The last great main stream/line release from the house of Chanel and a staple in my personal wardrobe. Rich sandalwood, candied fruit accords with a sprinkle of Chanel’s magic signature on the top notes. Rich, powerful, assertive, masculine and extremely versatile, this is one of those rare fragrances which ticks all the right boxes. Immensely satisfying and should be your first stop at the Chanel counter. (Bonus: if you can find the discontinued version which is called Cologne Concentree )*

Rating: 9/10

Yves Saint Laurent- Kouros

Notes: aldehydes, artemisia, coriander, clary sage and bergamot, carnation, patchouli, cinnamon, orris root, jasmine, vetiver and geranium, honey, leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss, vanilla

Launched in 1981 by YSL King Kouros remains to this day one of the top selling men’s releases on the planet for a reason. Simply put this is masculinity personified in a fragrance, iconic and symbolic of the 80′s this polarizing powerhouse has since been neutered a little since its inception. Still it remains a contender to be the defining men’s fragrance of all time.

Rating: 9/10

Pascal Morabito- Or Black

Notes: bergamot, pepper, leather, sage, benzoin, cistus, vetiver, amber, tonkinian musk, oakmoss

A classic 80′s leather chypre, which was once discontinued but is now available in a very expensive limited edition and numbered silver-plated bottle (or a basic 100ml re-charge bottle). A wonderful fragrance, which is extremely complex and multifaceted exuding warmth, bitterness, leather, resins, booze, greens.

Dense, masculine and unapologetically 80′s, yet still just as relevant today as it was then. Recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Dior- Fahrenheit

Notes: hawthorn, honeysuckle, sandalwood, lesntitcus, benzoin

Fahrenheit is another iconic fragrance of the 80′s/early 90′s and one which narrowly missed out on my past list of top 10 masculine classics. Undoubtedly masculine, classic, rugged and unique in which nothing else smells quite like it. A rich leathery blend of dirty florals, gasoline, blended with the must and grease of a mechanics garage, mesmerizing! Unfortunately reformulation has had its grubby mitts on this one a time or two, so the scent has suffered marginally.

Rating: 8/10

Dior- Eau Sauvage

Notes: lemon, rosemary, petitgrain, basil, vetiver

This is a fresh perfume which can be easily recognized among other fresh fragrances. The clear and fresh scent of lemon and bitter-fresh rosemary are combined perfectly with masculine, woody nuances. The perfume was introduced in 1966 and created in cooperation with perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. The creator made the perfume legendary and characteristic for its fresh, citrusy notes, composed with spicy lavender on a masculine woody base. Rumor has it this one was a favourite of John Lennon.

Rating: 8/10

Chanel- Pour Monsieur

Notes: neroli, petitgrain, lemon, cardamon, cedarwood, oakmoss, vetitver

A classic since its release in 1955, Pour Monsieur is an eternal classic. The perfume has an ‘intelligent’ essence through its composition created by Henri Robert, which opens gradually and leads a long and beautiful play out on the skin. A very refined fragrance, for an elegant and intelligent man.

Rating: 8/10

Chanel- Antaeus

Notes: clary sage, myrtle, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum, beeswax absolute

Antaeus is the name of ancient Greek demigod. Strong, like a god, and gentle as a man, Antaeus belongs to those perfumes of expressed individuality and strong character which emphasize masculinity, what was a trend in 1980-ies. Myrtle and sage, lime and thyme have united to give the fragrance a special freshness and masculine character.

The fragrance is warming up and becomes intensive at the end due to patchouli, sandal and labdanum in the base. Sharp animalistic nuance is brought in by the notes of castoreum and leather. This could arguably be THE scent iconic of the 80′s (along with Kouros of course), symbolizing Gordon Gekko, Wall street and blow in all its loud, big brash ostentatious glory!

Rating: 8/10

Geoffrey Beene- Grey Flannel

Notes: violet, orange, lemon, oakmoss, sandalwood

Originally released in 1975, Grey Flannel is a very dated, yet classy understated classic which your dad probably used to wear. The fresh smell of dew of leaves, during a crisp early autumn morning. Quite polarizing, yet worth sampling simply for its contribution to the history of perfumery.

Rating: 7.5/10

Dior- Homme

Notes: lavender, sage, bergamot, iris, amber, cocoa, cardamon, patchouli, leather, Tahitian vetiver

Homme is quite simply a whimsical, elegant and daring scent. This one has Dior’s trademark metro sexual chic handwriting all over it and one which could just as easily been called Femme. Olivier Polge uses traditionally feminine notes of iris (smells like lipstick/make up to many) and cocoa, juxtaposed against a masculine notes of leather, patchouli and vetiver. Elegant, suave, stylish and delicious. Definitely worth sampling (you may need to sample it multiple times to “get it”).

Rating: 8.5./10

Comme des Garcons- EDP (original)

Notes: cardamon oil, coriander oil, geranium oil, nutmeg oil, cinnamon bark oil, clovebud, labdanum essense, styrax, cedarwood, cut hay, olibanium essense, black pepper, sandalwood, rose, honey

The original and where it all began for the house of Comme des Garcons. Mark Buxton’s legendary eau de parfum was originally released in 1994 and is considered by most CdG fans to be their finest. Eau de parfum is hailed as a fragrance that “works like a medicine, behaves like a drug”. A sparkling array of spices awaken the senses, with notes of cinnamon, rose and clove. Like a balm, the scent invades the body–woody and resin work in concert with harmonies of honey and cedarwood. Full of softness and warmth…the complexity subsides.

Rating: 8.5/10

BONUS

More of a tease than a bonus, these are two modern classics gone before their time. Criminally discontinued, but well worth hunting down a bottle or two if you can find them.

Helmut Lang- Cuiron

Notes: plum, “fluid” leather, fresh notes, “sensual” leather, suede notes, “noble” leather

Read full review here.

Rating: 8/10

Yohji Yamamoto- Yohji Homme

Notes: liquorice, rum, coffee, cinnamon, leather

Like Cuiron, Yohji Homme is another one painfully discontinued before its time. A conservative and restrained take on the gourmand genre, taking rich sweet bitter notes and morphing them into something quite simply stunning. Sorely missed and worth tracking down.

Rating: 8.5/10

Where to Start? Part 8 (10 of the weird & wonderful)

Would could have so very easily become the Comme des Garcons show, I give you 10 fragrances of the weird and wonderful:

Le Labo- Patchouli 24

Notes: patchouli, birch tar, styrax, vanilla

Arguably Annick Mendardo’s earlier work Bvlgari Black on a bigger budget. It takes the weird and wonderful smokey, burning rubber accord and ramps it up to 10. The initial blast is a warm, extremely smokey birch tar accord, bringing to light the smell of a camp fire, leather and a fine peaty Whiskey. The overall effect is tamed and rounded off with a dry vanilla. Nice!

Rating: 8.5/10

Comme des Garçons-Skai

Notes: ozone, methy, grapefruit, pvc notes, coal tar, cardamon, white leather, sandalwood, labdanum

Part of Comme des Garcons quirky Series 6 Synthetic: Skai by Comme des Garcons is a floral aldehyde fragrance for women and men. Launched in 2004, this is one is a trip! As you can gather from the name, this one is synthetic with a capital S! It has a wonderful 3D complexity imparted by a whacky combo of different aldehydes, giving this luminously fruity effervescent transparency, which smells just like a lilo and rubber ring from the swimming pool!
Rating: 7.5/10

Bvlgari-Black

Notes: Lapsang Souchong tea, rubber, amber, woody notes, vanilla

Before Patchouli 24, there was Bvlgari Black. Annick Menardo’s primary masterpiece before being given the chance to rework her original composition without budget constraints. Less potent than it’s successor, this one is more focused on the rubber notes, than the birch tar/camp fire concept, either way it’s still a masterpiece.

Rating: 8/10

Nasomatto- Black Afgano

Notes: cannabis, herbal notes, resins, woods, coffee, tobacco, frankincense, oud

See full review here

Rating: 6/10

Olivier Durbano-Black Tourmaline

Notes: cardamom, coriander, cumin, frankincense, pepper, smoked wood, oud, leather, precious woods, musk, amber, moss, patchouli

Stone of protection in the former legends, the Black Tourmaline would protect against pernicious influence and turn self negativity into positive attitude. Creating a fence to defend against fire projections and electrostatic phenomena. Hoodoo aside, this one is extremely dark and austere, with spicy, earthy and smokey overtones, yet manages to cleverly remove the BBQ undertones which is normally associated with birch tar. Mysterious and unusual this is the smell of total isolation and mysticism at its best.

Rating: 8.5.10

Serge Lutens- Muscs Koublai Khan

Notes: vegetal musk, roots of costus, labdanum rockrose, grey amber, vanilla, patchouli, ambrette seeds, pure Moroccan rose.

Muscs Koublaï Khän is named after Koublaï Khän, the Great Mongol ruler and Emperor of China. Another target for unwarranted gross hyperbole and conjecture, in that there is some exaggerated myth that this one smells either like “camel butt” or my favourite “the crotch of a homeless person”. A destined classic which is made up of a rich honeyed rose overlaid on a bed of smoldering amber, with a hefty dose of musk and every animalesque note you can think of. Polarizing to say the least in that it’s devilishly sexy to some, repulsive to others, though beautiful, unique and immaculate in its own right.

With that said, does it smell like the crotch of a homeless person standing next to the rear end of a camel? You be the judge!

Rating: 9/10

Lush-Breath of God

Notes: neroli, sandalwood, virginia cedar, incense, amalfi lemon, melon, rose, ylang-ylang, vetiver, grapefruit, black pepper, juniper

A freak of nature and a complete accident, when two different fragrances from the same house were mixed together as a joke. The result? Something surprisingly weird and wonderful. Fruit, bubblegum, incense, woods, vetiver, there is a lot going on here. Extremely alien, extremely complex, surprisingly wearable. One which can’t be put into words, simply try it for yourself.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comme des Garçons-2MAN

Notes: incense, white smoke, saffron flowers, nutmeg, vetiver roots, mahogany, leather

One of my all time favourite openings in a fragrance. I’m generally quite indifferent to aldehydes in fragrance, but here they’re simply addictive. Snuffed out candle smoke, with the effect enhanced by a lemony-incense in Mark Buxton’s light ethereal minimalistic style. The support is headed up by a well balanced manly cast of woody notes and leather. Quite versatile and seriously recommended.

Rating: 8/10

Histoires de Parfums- Ambarem

Notes: pink peppercorn, elemi, iris absolute, oud, saffron, castoreum absolute, bourbon vanilla, sandalwood, amber

The definition of a modern “niche” release if there ever was one. The opening reminds me of a combination of Skai (see above) and Tom Fords Tuscan Leather. A strong leathery castoreum note, enriched with a synthetic PVC esque aldehydic aqua marine cucumber note; supported by a diabetic coma inducingly sweet  amber. A subtle hint of oud, rounded off by a light and waxy saffron-iris accord, adds nuances and complexity to the top notes. Quite weird and one I can’t make my mind up on!

Rating: 7.5-8/10

Histoires de Parfums- Petroleum

Notes: oud, bergamot, aldehyde, oud, amber, civet absolute, leather, patchouli, white musk

A symbol of wealth and prosperity, Petroleum is an unexpected essence. Once referred to as ‘Black Gold’, it is rich, dark and mysterious…a miraculous gift from the depths of our Earth. In all of its precious form, Oud is effortlessly felt throughout the fragrance. Woven with Bergamot and Orange, its fresh top notes unfold, assertively layered with woody and resinous power. Ozonic floralcy lives at the heart as a mystical rose unveils warmed ambered stones. An eccentric chypre character exhales narcotic fumes with an intense signature of leather wrapped in lucid white musk.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

BONUS

Etat Libre d’Orange- Secretions Magnifiques

Notes: iode accord, adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax

From Lucky Scent:

“Etat Libre d’Orange is a newly liberated olfactory territory, a land free of any taboos and preconceptions. A land where perfume is art and perfumers have free reign. It is only in free-thinking lands like this that truly original fragrances can be born, the ones that make us gasp not only because of the provocativeness of their concepts but because of the staggering innovation of their composition.

And no scent is more original than Etat Libre d’Orange’s bête noire, Secretions Magnifiques. An ode to sensual pleasure, to the rush of adrenalin, to tension and relief, this subversive perfume tricks you into smelling things you had never expected to smell in a perfume. The insinuating, saline sensuality of its iode-blood-milk accord is extraordinary. It is a perfume-chameleon: on some it will smell astoundingly animalic and on others it will be almost childlike in its softness. A love-it or hate-it fragrance if ever there was one, some consider this a masterpiece of modern perfumery.”

Rating: 5/10

Comme des Garçons- Odeur 71

Notes: incense, wood, moss, willow, elm, bay leaves, bamboo, hyacinth

From Lucky Scent:

“The ultimate anti-perfume. The notes are inspired by dust on a hot light bulb, bamboo, metal, electricity and lettuce juice…no lie! But what does it smell like? Surprisingly, it’s a completely wearable scent; metal and electricity manifest as the invigorating smell of ozone just before a storm, and the combination of we-don’t-know-what makes for a familiar soapy freshness.

Hot laundry right out of the dryer served up on your clean, sexy Xerox machine. Released in 2000, Odeur 71 continues to make huge stir-not just for its revolutionary scent structure, but because it’s a testament that a combination of the truly weird can make a truly fantastic fragrance.”

Rating: 7.5/10

Where to start? Part 7 (10 Old world classics)

Now we travel back in time to take a look at some of the aristocratic “old guard” of classical perfumery. Legends of their time and legends today in that they’re still considered a benchmark of true mastery.

Chanel- Cuir de Russie

Notes: orange blossom, bergamot, mandarin, clary sage,iris, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, vetiver, styrax, leather, amber, vanilla

Cuir de Russie (Russian Leather) captures the essence of the wild and lavish Russia from the 1920s. Impressing and setting forth intrigue with its luxuriously plush sensuality. CdR belongs to the founding elite of the genre defining aristocracy of perfumery of this era.

Its leather notes were unusual for female fragrance of this time and was once described by Coco Chanel as “a very improper perfume for nicely brought-up young ladies.” But that hasn’t stopped the likes of Mick Jagger wearing it!

Rating: 9.5/10

Guerlain- Jicky

Notes: lavender, rosemary, bergamot, rosemary, fougere harmony,  civet, opoponax, woody notes, vanilla, tonka bean

Jicky was created in 1889, a classical fragrance despite its age has remained timeless and still very modern. According to the legend, the perfume was named after a girl Aime Guerlain was in love with when he was a student in England. It is more likely though, that this perfume is named after his uncle Jacques Guerlain’s nickname – Jicky.

This was one of the first perfumes created with the addition of synthetic materials (the first was Fougere Royale Houbigant, 1882). The top notes contain lavender and citrus (bergamot, lemon and mandarin), which perfectly match the cold, metallic orris and rose shaded by vetiver. The cold top and middle notes are an elegant counterbalance to the warm base created by patchouli, vanilla, amber and musk. A firm favourite of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, which speaks volumes.

Rating: 9.5/10

Guerlain- Mitsouko

Notes: bergamot, peach, jasmine,rose, oakmoss, vetiver, pepper, cinnamon

Mitsouko was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1919, inspired by the heroine of Claude Farrčre’s novel ‘La Bataille’, a story of an impossible love between Mitsouko, the wife of Japanese Admiral Togo, and a British officer. The story takes place in 1905, during the war between Russia and Japan. Both men went to war, and Mitsouko, hiding her feelings with dignity, waits for the outcome of the battle to discover which of the two men will come back to her and be her companion.

Mitsouko is a mysterious fragrance, not allowing everyone to see its beauty. The opening is long, like a play of all beautiful notes, and, of course, this fragrance is not for ordinary day use. On the skin it sounds as if it starts from far away, without any allusion to its intensity and sensual side. Unique, original and must be sampled by everyone who enjoys fragrance.

Rating: 9.5/10

Guerlain- Shalimar

Notes: lemon, bergamot, jasmine, May rose, iris, incense, opoponax, tonka bean, vanilla

Shalimar was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1925, as a tribute to the legendary love story between Emperor Shajahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Before he became emperor his name was Prince Khurram. According to the legend, twenty- year-old Prince Khurram met a young girl, named Arjumand Banu at the bazaar where her family worked.

Mesmerized by her beauty, after becoming emperor, he made her his wife as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Jewel of the Palace”. After the wedding ,the prince and Mumtaz were inseparable, in war and in peace. She had given 13 children to Shahjahan and died during the birth of their 14th child at the age of 39. Her death devastated Shah Jahan, who then built the Taj Mahal in memory of his late wife and their undying love. Shalimar is named after ‘The Gardens of Shalimar’ which was Mumtaz’s favorite garden.

Rating: 9/10

Knize- Ten

Notes: bergamot, lemon, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, geranium, cedarwood, rose, orris, carnation, cinnamon, sandalwood, leather, musk, moss, amber, castoreum, vanilla

Knize Ten, a classic wickedly unique scent and is considered to be the reference leather if not the best leather compositions in the history of perfume. It was launched in the 1920s through founder of the House is Joseph Knize, the Viennese tailor of the Royal Court.

The nose behind this fragrant creation is a perfumer Vincent Roubert, and the design of the bottle is attributed to the Viennese architect Adolf Loos. Number ten in the name symbolizes the polo game. Having been originally released in 1925 and still going strong today is testament to the quality of this marvel. Regal and complex with enough butch leather and dandified florals, to be the king of cool James Deans signature scent (enough said).

Rating: 9.5/10

Chanel- No.5

Notes: aldehydes, Grasse jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, iris, amber, patchouli

Chanel N°5 currently the best selling and recognized women’s perfume in the world. Conceptualized and created when Coco Chanel asked perfume designer Ernest Beaux to create a perfume “which smells like a woman“. N°5 a very complex fragrance which does not allow any of the fragrant components to be isolated out of the composition, what was exactly the request of the great Coco Chanel –“the perfume should not smell like a rose, or a lily of the valley, but as a composition.”

The perfume became famous thanks to many celebrities who wore it, among which was Marilyn Monroe. Chanel N°5 is often connected to her name because during a legendary interview in 1954, she claimed that in bed she wore only ‘Chanel N°5‘. That statement became a superb advertising slogan and a reason for millions of women around the world to choose this perfume (The current Chanel N°5 face is Brad Pitt believe it or not).

Ernest Beaux created two series of perfume samples numbered 1-5 and 20-24 and asked Coco Chanel to choose one of them. Madame Chanel chose sample no. 5 and thus history was created and the perfume got its name. Superstitious, Chanel presented her new perfume on the fifth day of the fifth month of 1921.

Whilst creating the composition Beaux utilized for the first time the synthetic component – aldehydes. In his formula the aldehydes are accompanied by fragrances of rose and jasmine. The fragrance of aldehydes is pure and fresh, reminds of the odor of clean linen just brought in the house form the fresh frosty air. It is said that the famous creator drew his inspiration for creation of this fragrance from one of his visits to the Arctic Circle and the smell of water at midnight. The unique smell of frozen lakes and rivers fascinated him so much that he decided to replicate it in his creation.

Rating: 9/10

Chanel- Bois des Iles

Notes: aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, peach, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin, musk

Bois des Iles (Island Woods), was created in 1926 and it is said that Beaux created Bois des Iles while he was rapt by Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, the opera inspired by the Puskin’s novel about love and hazard, his favorite creation.

Original and genre defining in that it did for Sandalwood what Cuir de Russie did for leather. Traditional masculine notes refined for the ladies (but could be easily worn by men). A dry and spicy freshness leads to a rich and sumptuous floral heart, the light sweetness of which undulates with dry and dark woody notes. At the end, the composition becomes warmer, more comfortable and tame, as if entering into a dark room illuminated by the flames of a fireplace.

Rating: 9.5/10

Robert Piguet- Bandit

Notes: orange, tuberose, jasmine, rose, leather, woods

Bandit, the most daring in the entire genre of perfumes, including Caron Tabac Blond and Chanel Cuir de Russie, perfumes for an emancipated woman on the turn of the last century; for a woman who dares to smoke in public. Bandit was made for the avantgarde Robert Piguet’s collection, inspired by romantic sea voyages and pirates. Bandit is a classic “chypre” with dark animal notes and aggressive leather accord. In 1999, after 25 years, production of Bandit reinitialized again.

Rating: 9/10

Caron- Pour un homme

Notes: lavender, rosemary, bergamot, lemon, clary sage, rose, rosewood, cedarwood, vanilla, tonka, musk, moss

Pour Un Homme de Caron by Caron is an Aromatic fragrance for men. Launched in 1934 and the nose behind this fragrance is Ernest Daltroff. It’s a rich, yet elegantly understated “gentlemen” fragrance, which is rather sophisticated in its simplicity. Made up of a soothing and refined lavender and vanilla, with a delicate hint of musk. Recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Guerlain-Sous le Vent

Notes: lavender, tarragon, bergamot, green notes, jasmine, carnation, iris, woodsy notes

See a wonderful review here.

Rating: 9/10

Where to start? Part 6 (10 Masculine Classics)

Through the golden ages of perfumery, a time when quality and timelessness was favored over fads, gimmicks and quickly passing trends. I give you the Mount Rushmore of classic/timeless masculine fragrances:

Guerlain- Derby

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, lemon, peppermint, jasmine, mace, pepper, pimento, rose, leather, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver

Derby was originally created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1985 and although it’s had a little “work” done along the way, it still remains an iconic rich masculine leather chypre and arguably the head of its class in its genre. Trying to describe it would be doing it a disservice, therefore this is one which must simply be tried.

* Since reintroduced at Guerlain’s flagship boutique in Paris, in a rather vulgar and tacky wooden themed bottle, instead of the elegant original bee bottle.

Rating: 9.5/10

Guerlain- Habit Rouge

Notes: bergamot, lemon, rosewood, basil, pimiento, sandal, carnation, patchouli, cedar, rose, cinnamon, vanilla, amber, moss, leather, benzoin, labdanum, olibanum

The Guerlain family has a passion for horses, which Habit Rouge trumpets for all to hear.

The air is bracing and the forest blazes with reds and yellows.  The atmosphere is charged with a fragrance mix of earth, warm leather, the forest and the smell of the horses, the steam rising from their coats in the morning air. The primitive instinct of the hunt still runs through the veins of the hunter.

Rarely does man find himself so close to his original state. Habit Rouge captures this primitive instinct in all its mastery, cultivation and refinement.

Expressive yet delicate, this is a real man’s perfume. The first oriental men’s fragrance, it is replete with contrast.  It is the fragrance of the hunter, albeit for the most tender of hunts.

Rating: 9/10

Caron- Yatagan

Notes: lavender, wormwood, petitgrain, artemisia, geranium, pine needles, vetiver, patchouli, leather, castoreum, styrax

Another iconic mans man fragrance. Named after the sharp, curved Turkish saber Yatagan. It’s exotic, mysterious sonority is reminiscent of oriental and adventurous destinies. The clinging warm, bold, and sensual scent resembles an extremely rare oriental wood that was used as incense in Hindu homes for centuries.

Yatagan’s wood notes mixed with subtle undertones of herbs such as galbanum, patchouli, incense, Artemisia and mint make this a perfect fall and wintry scent. Yatagan was launched in 1978 and remains today as strong as ever and surprisingly very affordable.

Rating: 8.5/10

Caron- Pour un homme

Notes: lavender, rosemary, bergamot, lemon, clary sage, rose, rosewood, cedarwood, vanilla, tonka, musk, moss

Pour Un Homme de Caron by Caron is an Aromatic fragrance for men. Launched in 1934 and the nose behind this fragrance is Ernest Daltroff. It’s rich, yet elegantly understated “gentlemen” fragrance, which is rather sophisticated in its simplicity. Made up of a soothing and refined lavender and vanilla, with a delicate hint of musk. Recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Parfums de Nicolaï- New York

Notes: lemon, bergamot, lavender, pepper, patchouli, cedarwood, spices, vanilla, leather, amber

New York by Parfums de Nicolaï is a classic Woody Spicy fragrance for men. New York was launched in 1989 by Patricia de Nicolai (grand daughter of Pierre Guerlain and trained by legdendary Jean-Paul Guerlain). Far from being unique or concept, but regardless this one is affable as it is a master class in elegance, balance and restraint in perfumery.

Rating: 8.5/10

Knize- Ten

Notes: bergamot, lemon, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, geranium, cedarwood, rose, orris, carnation, cinnamon, sandalwood, leather, musk, moss, amber, castoreum, vanilla

Knize Ten, a classic wickedly unique scent and is considered to be the reference leather if not the best leather compositions in the history of perfume. It was launched in the 1920s through founder of the House is Joseph Knize, the Viennese tailor of the Royal Court.

The nose behind this fragrant creation is a perfumer Vincent Roubert, and the design of the bottle is attributed to the Viennese architect Adolf Loos. Number ten in the name symbolizes the polo game. Having been originally released in 1925 and still going strong today is testament to the quality of this marvel. Regal and complex with enough butch leather and dandified florals, to be the king of cool James Deans signature scent (enough said).

Rating: 9.5/10

Yves Saint Laurent- Kouros

Notes: aldehydes, artemisia, coriander, clary sage and bergamot, carnation, patchouli, cinnamon, orris root, jasmine, vetiver and geranium, honey, leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss, vanilla

Launched in 1981 by YSL King Kouros remains to this day one of the top selling men’s releases on the planet for a reason. Simply put this is masculinity personified in a fragrance, iconic and symbolic of the 80′s this polarizing powerhouse has since been neutered a little since its inception. Still it remains a contender to be the defining men’s fragrance of all time.

Rating: 9/10

Pascal Morabito- Or Black

Notes: bergamot, pepper, leather, sage, benzoin, cistus, vetiver, amber, tonkinian musk, oakmoss

A classic 80′s leather chypre, which was once discontinued but is now available in a very expensive limited edition and numbered silver-plated bottle (or a basic 100ml re-charge bottle). A wonderful fragrance, which is extremely complex and multifaceted exuding warmth, bitterness, leather, resins, booze, greens.

Dense, masculine and unapologetically 80′s, yet still just as relevant today as it was then. Recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Azzaro- Pour homme

Notes: lavender, geranium, anise, petitgrain, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, cardamon, basil, lemon, musk, ambergris

Azzaro pour Homme by Azzaro is a Aromatic Fougere fragrance for men. Launched in 1978 and still remains a top seller today, at a very affordable price (read: cheap). Bold, masculine and leathery with all the hallmarks you’d expect from a fragrance of this era. It may come across as a bit dated, but still a remarkable fragrance.
Rating: 8/10

Chanel- Antaeus

Notes: clary sage, myrtle, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum, beeswax absolute

Antaeus is the name of ancient Greek demigod. Strong, like a god, and gentle as a man, Antaeus belongs to those perfumes of expressed individuality and strong character which emphasize masculinity, what was a trend in 1980-ies. Myrtle and sage, lime and thyme have united to give the fragrance a special freshness and masculine character.

The fragrance is warming up and becomes intensive at the end due to patchouli, sandal and labdanum in the base. Sharp animalistic nuance is brought in by the notes of castoreum and leather. This could arguably be THE scent iconic of the 80′s (along with Kouros of course), symbolizing Gordon Gekko, Wall street and blow in all its loud, big brash ostentatious glory!

Rating: 8/10

Where to start? Part 5 (10 Modern niche classics)

Now we come to “modern niche classics” and it must be noted that there are an astounding number of fragrances which could be considered “classics”.

The following suggestions are merely a direct reflection of my personal tastes, which also happen to be some of the most talked about and respected scents in the community.

 

 

Andy Tauer- L’air du desert Marocain

Notes: coriander, petitgrain (bitter orange), lemon, bergamot, jasmin, cistus, bourbon, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver, vanille, patchouli, ambergris.

Independent Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer’s best release to date, a mysterious and hauntingly meditative exotic masterpiece, made up of bone dry cedar and spices, sweet warm resinous amber and a deft dusty incense. Potent, challenging and as my friend once aptly described it “Burt Reynolds in a bottle” (meaning very manly, not cheesy!). Simply put, this one just works and is one of my Top 10 all time favorites.

‘Imagine finding peace in a room, lying on the bed, exhausted from the heat of the day, with the window open, letting the cool air in which still is very dry and filled with the scents from the near desert and overlayed with the spicy scents of the streets below.’ - Andy Tauer

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Histoires de Parfum- 1740 Marquis de Sade

Notes: bergamot, davana sensualis, patchouli, coriander, cardamom, cedar, elemi, leather, labdanum

1740 represents the birth year of a Parisian gentleman, named Donatien-Alphonse-François, famous as the Marquis de Sade. Imprisoned many times for his licentious morals. This is a truly polarizing fragrance, in that you either love it or hate it.

It all comes down to your threshold tolerance for the Immortelle note, which has an almost curried maple syrup essence. The opening is very bitter and boozy, evolving into a wonderfully buttery leather/pipe tobacco. 100% masculine and manly, although equally enjoyed by women alike.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Serge Lutens- Ambre Sultan

Notes: coriander, amber, oregano, bay leaf, myrtle, angelica root, sandalwood, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla

To many The Sultan reigns supreme as the reference amber. Opening with a richly resinous amber, glowing and mingling with exotic spices, whilst casting a bewitching spell. It smells almost exactly how you’d imagine it to smell, as it unfolds peeling off its medicinal and herbal layers, losing the brininess of the opening spices to leave a flickering scent trail, reminiscent of the smell of burnt embers (making it a very visceral experience). One of the flagship scents in a very extensive Serge Lutens line and allegedly the top seller in France for the house.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Serge Lutens- Muscs Koublaï Khän

Notes: vegetal musk, roots of costus, labdanum rockrose, grey amber, vanilla, patchouli, ambrette seeds, pure Moroccan rose.

Muscs Koublaï Khän is named after Koublaï Khän, the Great Mongol ruler and Emperor of China. Another target for unwarranted gross hyperbole and conjecture, in that there is some exaggerated myth that this one smells either like “camel butt” or my favourite “the crotch of a homeless person”. A destined classic which is made up of a rich honeyed rose overlaid on a bed of smoldering amber, with a hefty dose of musk and every animalesque note you can think of. Polarizing to say the least in that it’s devilishly sexy to some, repulsive to others, though beautiful, unique and immaculate in its own right.

With that said, does it smell like the crotch of a homeless person standing next to the rear end of a camel? You be the judge!

Rating: 9/10

 

 

MDCI- Invasion Barbare

Notes: grapefruit, bergamot, violet leaves, white thyme, cardamom, lavender, ginger, cedarwood, vanilla, musk.

See full review here

Rating: 9.5/10

 

 

Chanel- 31 Rue Cambon

Notes: bergamot, patchouli, cistus oil, iris, aldehydes 

31 Rue Cambon is a chypre fragrance and is named after the address of Chanel’s Parisian couture workshop. A rich, smooth, elegant floral with a couture character, created by Chanel Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2007. The warm Chypre accord is set free and made luminous and modern with inviting notes of Bergamot, Patchouli and Cistus oil. What’s quite interesting about this effervescent modern masterpiece, is that although classified as a chypre, it’s lacking an oakmoss accord. Clever!

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Chanel- Sycomore

Notes: vetiver, sandalwood, cypress, juniper, pink berries

A rich-wood fragrance with a noble character — like the Sycomore tree that inspired it — created by Chanel Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2008. Elegant and dignified almost to a fault, this is a whimsical sumptuous blend of smokey vetiver on a bed of rich sandalwood and incense, for an earthy, warm and enveloping, yet subtle presence. Much more than the simple sum of its parts, this one is simply remarkable and mandatory testing.

Rating: 9.5/10

 

 

Frédéric Malle- Musc Ravageur

Notes: bergamot, tangerine, cinnamon, vanilla, musk, amber

See full review here.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Montale- Black Aoud

Notes: red rose, aoud, labdanum, sandalwood, mardarin, musk

Considered the most popular and flagship scent in Pierre Montale’s line-up. Black Aoud is an abject lesson in Middle-Eastern perfumery, with some classical French sensibilities. The opening is potent, with an almost overwhelmingly sharp and medicinal oud note, overlayed with a plush velvet rose in its simplicity. This is a seriously tenacious fragrance, which quite literally can last for days. You’ve been warned!

Rating: 8/10

 

 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Absolue pour le soir

Notes: Infusion of benzoin from Siam, cumin, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian and Iranian rose honey, incense absolute, Atlas cedarwood and sandalwood.

See full review here.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

See also

Puredistance- M (full review)

Amouage- Jubilation XXV (Mini-review)

Where to start? Part 4 (High-end Luxury)

Now we steer course towards the pinnacle of high-end luxury niche brands and the ostentatiously crass bravado which is Clive Christians obnoxious marketing shtick of “The worlds most expensive perfume”. If that dirty mantra doesn’t appeal to your snobbish sensibilities, then there is hope for you yet!

 

 

Clive Christian- No.1 for men


Notes: bergamot, lime, tangerine, cardamon, nutmeg, thyme, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, heliotrope, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla.

Straight to the point, does it deserve to be bestowed with the grand title of “the worlds most expensive perfume” at $1000 USD a pop? This nose says NO!

Powdery, feminine and inoffensive with a soapy temperament. Obviously a product of outlandish marketing gimmicks and hardly worth talking about, since it’s more of a statement to own it and say you bought it, rather than an enjoyable experience. NEXT! >

Rating: 4/10

 

 

Xerjoff- Homme 17/17

Notes: bergamot, tangerine, lime, orange, grapefruit, caraway, tarragon, ginger, lavender, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, iris, clove, atlas–cedarwood, ambergris, rose, vanilla, vetiver, birch, woods.

With an impressively luxurious bottle, constructed partly with a semi-precious stone, Homme is constructed around the central theme of leather. It allegedly evokes the scene of a man from behind the wheel of his most prized vintage car, wearing his favourite leather flying jacket.

Described as:

A truly unforgettable and sensory masculine experience. In an instant, Homme will seduce you with the straightforward simplicity of its central note. The touches of iris and rose make this unashamedly masculine composition, totally addictive. A debonair leather.”

I’ll agree with the above statement, a great fragrance and a worthy contender to be the prized jewel in Xerjoff’s extensive line. One minor drawback though, is it’s a rather unoriginal fragrance. It bears a strong resemblance to (ahem!) Knize Ten another classic reference leather, which is a fraction of the cost (more on that one later).

Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

By Kilian- Back to Black

Notes: bergamot, raspberry, blue chamomile, cardamon, coriander, saffron, cedarwood, vanilla, almond, vetiver, cistus labdanum, patchouli, oakmoss.

Kilian Hennessy heir to the Hennessy Cognac fortune has managed to take a seat at the top tier table of the niche brands marketed to the nouveau riche. Their bottle-box presentations are undoubtedly stunning, if not a little pretentious. From a cost effective stand point, this is where the majority of the $$ is going as opposed towards the fragrance (where it should be going).

Probably the most recognized and flagship fragrance of the extensive line, marketed as an “aphrodisiac” Back to Black goes on almost teeth itching sweet. Composed of aromas of honey, fruit, wood, amber and tobacco, with a hint of citrusy tacts of bergamot, spicy nuances of saffron and cardamom, and sweet touch of raspberry. It falls short of the mark of smelling like genuine pipe tobacco, but never the less the opening is bewitching.

This one is more flash over substance since the enchanting opening is short lived, before it slowly winds down to baby powder, making it a 5 minute wonder.

Rating: 7.5/10

 

 

Footnote:  Now if you’re going to take one lesson away from this, it’s that big $ does not automatically = high quality.*

Where to start? Part 3 (Entry level luxury)

One of the key components to the word “niche” is availability. Both Amouage and Chanel, although “niche” in the traditional sense, veer slightly towards commercial territory, since they’re both quite readily available internationally at most major department stores.

I also acknowledge that technically Chanel is a “designer” house, but their Les Exclusif range constitutes as niche in my book*

Amouage- Jubilation XXV

Notes: frankincense, labdanum ciste, coriander, davana, blackberry, orange, gaicwood, rose, honey, bay, orchid, cinnamon, clove, celery seed, opoponox, patchouli, myrrh, musk, moss, atlas cedarwood, ambergris, oud, immortelle.

The very definition of lavish luxury and opulent decadence in a fragrance full stop. No expense (or ingredient) was spared in this rich, complex fruity/oud/incense Arabian nights bazaar extravaganza.  May be too affluent and flamboyant to pull off for many, but well worth experiencing. At the core is Amouage’s trademark frankincense belonging to the Sultanate of Oman, which shimmers regally with an ashen smouldering warmth.

Rating: 9/10

Amouage- Memoir Man

Notes: absinth, wormwood, basil, mint, rose, frankincense, lavender absolute, sandalwood, vetiver, guaicwood, amber, vanilla, musk, oakmoss, leather, tobacco.

A dark enigmatic fragrance, brooding, deceptively multifaceted and complex. A sweet bedrock blend of vanilla sweetened woody leather on Amouage’s trademark Omani incense. Coupled with a solid breeze of minty wormwood and basil, although not a gourmand, the top notes are simply delectable in a twisted sense. Recommended!

Rating: 9/10

Chanel- Coromandel

Notes: bitter orange, iris, neroli, jasmine, frankincense, patchouli, amber, benzoin, musk, vanilla

A voluptuous Oriental fragrance — an olfactory depiction of the lacquered Coromandel screens Mademoiselle Coco Chanel cherished. Created by Chanel Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2007, the elaborate scent unfolds in undulating detail, starting with an amber vibrato, followed by dry notes of Frankincense and Benzoin. Soulful woody notes finally add elegance and depth to the sensuous accord’s striking trail. Rich, complex and slightly boozy/medicinal and the almost unthinkable, a regal take on patchouli, smooth and elegant without the musty hippie associations, a clever and sophisticated contrast.

Rating: 8/10

Chanel- Sycomore

Notes: vetiver, sandalwood, cypress, juniper, pink berries

A rich-wood fragrance with a noble character — like the Sycomore tree that inspired it — created by Chanel Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2008. Elegant and dignified almost to a fault, this is a whimsical sumptuous blend of smokey vetiver on a bed of rich sandalwood and incense, for an earthy, warm and enveloping, yet subtle presence. Much more than the simple sum of its parts, this one is simply remarkable and mandatory testing.

Rating: 9.5/10