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

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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

Review: Comme des Garçons Avignon

Notes: roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds.

Avignon opens almost as grandiose in stature as the Palasi des Papes of Avignon itself; weaving a whimsical and evocative tapestry of dark smoldering warmth of Gothic-cathedral proportions, attributed to a vividly accurate star accord of smokey ash laden frankincense and myrrh.

With the image of warm sunlight shining through the colorful mosaic glass and those childhood memories of Sunday mass conjured and in full swing, comes the scents swirling and unraveling progressive stage of the opening; akin to the smoke emanating from a swaying thurible of the priest making his way from the vestry. This phase is by far my favorite, as it’s when Avignon’s wonderfully challenging burning and glowing resin is presented in its full glory.

Bertrand Duchaufour cleverly avoids pushing the boundaries to levels of burning and jagged austerity and realism, by taming and softening the edges with a bone dry vanilla and an enchanting and comforting Roman chamomile, which plays its role in setting forth a peaceful and meditative state; leaving a trail of dusty sweetness soothing out the bitter in a manner in which only lavender or chamomile can do.

This crucial step in the blending never creates a dichotomy of contradicting and conflicting elements, but rather strikes that meticulously inventive contrasting (yet harmonious) state, where the stark dry boldness of the heated ash is tempered and complemented with it’s polar opposite of light and warmth (a zesty elemi/vanilla/chamomile) which is key for the scents wearability in my opinion. Avignon remains very linear on my skin for the most part, with  iso-e-super playing its role in imparting a rich velvety prominent texture and volume giving the incense accords a much needed lift in carrying the concept through to the very end.

After spending a portion of my childhood in a quaint little Catholic town in Southern Italy called Martina Franca, I became quite accustomed early on to the rich and enigmatic aroma of freshly burnt incense, which naturally was common place in the charming town. Although I’m not Catholic myself and have no religious affinities to the scent, I’m definitely partial to the smell of incense and Avignon is immensely enjoyable and evokes those fond childhood memories in spades.


In closing, I must confess. I really do love this one a lot, highly recommended! Finally I’ll add that after sampling the entire Incense series 3 line up, I can unequivocally attest that this one is the stand out and definitely up there with Zagorsk as having the best longevity and silage in the series.

Rating: 8.5/10
Longevity: 8/10
Projection: 8/10
Occasion: Casual