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 2 (The Gourmands)

Tom Ford- Tobacco Vanille

Notes: tobacco leaf, spicy notes, tonka bean, tobacco blossom, vanilla, cacao, dried fruits, woody notes.

Throw in Tom Fords brazen swagger, some near ostentatious projection and an almost super natural longevity and you have Tobacco Vanille. Like the Energizer Bunny, this is the fragrance which keeps on going and to say it’s linear is an understatement. Extremely bold, rich, comforting and satisfying, whilst doing its clever rendition of Dutch Black Cavendish pipe tobacco to a tee. Just like your old trusty pair of slippers worn next to a fireplace and exactly what it says on the the tin, Tobacco and Vanilla. Wonderful.

Rating: 8/10



Bond No.9- New Haarlem

Notes: lavender, bergamot, green leaves, coffee, cedarwood, amber, vanilla, tonka.

Deep within a vast sea of vapid, unoriginal, uninspired and pretentious scents (can you tell I don’t like this house?), lays the one diamond in the rough and that is New Haarlem. This is for those who have a sweet tooth and like excessive amounts of sugar in their morning mocha chino. Dense maple syrup and coffee is the order of the day, with a fresh overcast of lavender. Bordering on cloying and linear, this one is expensive, but its stellar projection and longevity make up for its hefty price tag. A crowd pleaser (I mean who doesn’t like the smell of coffee and syrup!?) and surprisingly versatile.

Rating: 8/10



Frederic Malle-Musc Ravageur

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

See review here

Rating: 9/10

Review: Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur

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

“I give these ‘fragrance authors’ complete freedom to explore and express their ideas. Each perfumer is free to use the most innovative technologies and the rarest raw materials the industry offers. This freedom drives the artist to construct a scent without conventional boundaries and to refine his or her idea and formula to the most precise detail. When it is achieved, I publish it at “Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.”

These are the words of wisdom of Frédéric Malle, a gentleman who needs no introduction in the world of niche fragrance. As an innovator hes worked in conjunction with the worlds best noses to create a body of work which defy the conventionalities of modern perfumery; It’s this same innovative and non conformist approach which leads me to hold the house in such high regard and maintain a visceral approach to enjoying each creation.

I perceive each one as animated, vibrant and flirting with the abstract, and as clever artistic statements, they tantalize the senses with rich and colorful contrasts. Musc Ravageur is no exception and remains to this day a firm favorite in an extensive line.

As a so-called rich “oriental for grown ups“, Musc Ravageur is permeating with a sexy, playful flamboyance and a certain je ne sais quoi that only the French do best. Unfolding with a deceptive opening which has Maurice Roucel’s stylistic handwriting all over it, it’s a stark contrast to the eventual evolution, as it slowly and progressively weaves its magic into a lusty siren of a fragrance. Beginning with a mouth watering and tantalizing cool icy bergamot and tangerine, set against a broad backdrop of lavender, the surprise to come of rich woods, musks and spices are yet to make their full entrance to the boudiour, although they remain subtly present.

Allegedly Roucel was inspired by Guerlains classic Shalimar (which it does resemble with certain traits) but I can’t help at this phase being reminded of something which vaguely resembles a prelude to Gucci’s Envy, interesting. Never the less, it’s not particularly “dirty” at this point, but there are some very slight medicinal under currents attributed to the musk, which may equate for the *gasp* “old man smell” association which many seem to be mysteriously picking up. I don’t find the animalic/skank/(insert word here) particularly challenging or off putting, but rather intriguing, since it adds a certain element of mystique and French haute-naughtiness.

Though I do personally find the musk rather fleeting, which is prominent in the opening, yet remains elusive as the scent progresses, rendering the name almost a misnomer at times. Whether this is down to a probable cause of  being anosmic to the supposed variety of musks used is anybodies guess.

Next up comes the focal point and everybodies favorite part of the strip tease, when MR turns unapologetically gourmand and begins to purr like a kitten. Unfolding with a creamy-kaleidoscopic warmth of the sweet (vanilla) and spice (clove/cinnamon) enveloping the wearer like the proverbial cashmere blanket, cozy,dependable and comforting. Staying on this course for the majority of its stay, before slowly unwinding and settling down to lightly woody, ambery base with the rich vanilic sweetness remaining the dominant player. Delicious.

MR gives off a warm radiating projection, if not a little flamboyant, but without becoming vulgar, the balance of control remains impressive I must say. In closing I find the overall scent seriously seductive, decadent and immensely sensual, with the journey towing the fine line between aggressive and restrained, yet managing to pull it all off with some serious class, swagger and charm.

A perfect definition of a genderless fragrance, this one works equally well on a man, woman or beast and although a victim of hype through no fault of its own, it still remains mandatory testing for a new comer to the world of niche perfumery.

Rating: 9/10
Longevity: 9/10
Projection: 7/10
Occasion: Casual, Semi-Formal, Romantic