Monday, August 23, 2010

XerJoff: Modoc

USD 7 per ml? Outrageous! If you expect to be instantly 'wowed' by this scent, you're in for some disappointment; you're probably the wrong fit for the XerJoff lines anyway. But fret not, give it a little time and I'm sure Modoc will win you over with a masterclass in understated elegance.

On my skin Modoc projects modestly at first but as the warmth radiates through I smell something lovely wafting around the room - a subtle blend of iris, soft citrus and amber, edged with the bitterness of artemisia and earthy vetiver roots. Up close I also detect something akin to cedar and sandalwood even though these are not listed as notes. It may not be the most compelling of compositions, not by a long shot but it is certainly one of the smoothest and natural-smelling. Fans of subtle understated fragrances should give Modoc a try even though it seems a little too safe, lacking the distinctive qualities of Nio or even Dhofar.


lemon, orange, artemisia, Fiorentine iris, orange flower, vetiver, vanilla absolute, amber, musk.

*photo courtesy of jrd4t*

Sunday, August 22, 2010

XerJoff: Dhofar

Dhofar is a region in southern Oman. How it relates to XerJoff's Shooting Star line and its backstory of a meteorite shower over Siberia is anybody's guess. But a little research reveals a piece of meteorite had been named 'Dhofar' after the location where it was found. Nonetheless, with a moniker hailing from the Arabian peninsula, I expected something exotic with perhaps a Middle Eastern vibe.

I was right. Although Dhofar opens with a classically inspired herbal lavender, the pine needles, the jatamansi and spices harmonise wonderfully with a darkly earthy patchouli (though I swear it smells more like vetiver) to produce a distinctly masculine aura. It feels as though a traditional classic masculine such as Eau Sauvage is given a Middle Eastern-styled makeover, the continuous tension between soapy and earthy-spicy elements creating a rather interesting dissonance. Very original indeed. Unfortunately I'm neither tall, dark nor hairy(?) enough to carry Dhofar with aplomb.


lavender, coriander, pine needles, jatamansi, African orange flower, carnation, patchouli, Australian sandalwood, French labdanum.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

XerJoff: Nio

If all you care about is getting from point A to point B, it probably matters little whether you are driving a Volkswagen or riding on a Greyhound coach. But others who look for a more engaging experience may prefer the looks and the smooth assured handling of a BMW roadster.

XerJoff Nio is clearly for this latter group. It breaks no new grounds with its delightful rendition of a spicy green woody aromatic but if you're looking for the best of its class, Nio is probably right up there. It wears very well as a classy Mediterranean-styled masculine. And the more I tried it the more I grew to love it. I never thought I'd say something this crazy but this fragrance might just be worth skipping lunch over the next 3 months!


neroli, Calabrian bergamot, cardamom, nutmeg, pink pepper, green leaves, cedar, guaiac wood, Haitian vetiver, Indian patchouli, amber.

XerJoff: Uden

BEFORE the frat boy jokes begin (believe me, I hear it all the time), let's get the name out of the way. XerJoff (pronounced as 'zerr-joff') is an Italian luxury house of fine fragrances that seeks to interpret natural wonders through Italian craftmanship.
As of today it has a total of 22 fragrances. This is a review of Uden from the Shooting Star line, named after one of the places in Russia that experienced a meteorite shower on February 12, 1947. As the marketing spiel goes, stars can indeed get closer than we think.

XerJoff Uden starts off with a scintillating symphony of citrus and fruity-florals. Trying to isolate individual notes here is an exercise in futility for the blend is quickly enveloped by an oriental-like musky woods overlaid with a slightly boozy note of rum. At this juncture I understood why XerJoff classifies it as a 'marine fougere' - the resultant accord certainly has a marine-salty airy feel to it. But the 'fougere' aspect continues to elude me even today. Nevertheless given its eau de parfum strength, Uden projects beautifully, lasting a good 4 hours before drying down to a delicious aroma of vanilla over lightly roasted coffee.

Few would not balk at the retail price (USD345 for 50ml) but there is no question over the quality of the ingredients used even if they don't feel quite as natural as some of the best I've tried from the likes of Creed. Other reviewers however attribute this niggling 'flaw' to the house style; I would be wise to sample further from this house before drawing my own conclusions. It's just that the white musks feel a touch overdone here while the drydown could be richer. Neither is the transition from top notes to drydown as silky smooth as I have come to expect of a fragrance with such an exorbitant price tag.

Hefty expectations from hefty prices? Perhaps so, but that sounds pretty fair to me.


citrus, lemon, grapefruit, floral/fruity notes, rose, sandalwood, guaiac wood, rum absolute, amber, vanilla, coffee absolute, musks.

Domenico Caraceni: 1913

A finely tailored rose-centric scent with an elegance that speaks of impeccable taste, very much like a bespoke suit. I used to think Domenico Caraceni 1913 is gender-neutral but with regular wearings I'm delighted to find it leaning ever so gently towards masculine territory, unveiling a slightly spicy muskiness underneath the plummy rose geranium. It also feels cool and dry as though a subtle vein of resinuous frankincense runs through it, but this is a blend so smooth I've long given up trying to decipher the component notes. Suffice to say I'm happy to join the discerning groups of fans in celebrating such an exquisite fragrance.

petitgrain, styrax, geranium bourbon, neroli bigarade, rose absolute, tobacco essence, cypress, frankincense.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Montale: White Aoud

It is amazing how so little this one is brought up/given a shout-out/reviewed compared to her more prolific siblings. Amazing because White Aoud stands no less in quality, substance, and general appeal, than the likes of Black Aoud, Red Aoud, Blue Amber, Oud Cuir d'Arabie etc.

Before you go: "Oh not another Aoud variation". Let me say that this one is no surplus to any of her siblings or cousins.

Of course, in no truer Montale Aoud fashion, White Aoud (also ordered in extra perfume concentration) opens with the gushing, muddy pungency of oudh, sweetened by a silky-smooth, syrupy rose, and inevitably garnished with some spices, most prominently saffron.

To give it body, a thick, warm amber cloud gives White Aoud the much needed support and overall form. The powdery earthy sweetness of sandalwood, vanilla and patchouli are let loose and allowed to seek equal attention at the front, slowly pushing the oudh presence into semi-oblivion. They start to form an accord that is present in a handful of other Aoud variations (most notably in Black Aoud).

This rich floral amber will leave no room for any other olfactory distractions while she's performing. This one, like any bonafide Montale, has longevity and sillage made for the greedy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tauer Perfumes: L’Air du Désert Marocain

Andy Tauer is a man sturdily grounded, and humble, and awfully talented, as proven by this masterpiece.

L’Air du Désert Marocain opens with an incense-y mist of sweet-sour spices, clouding the core and heart of the scent, which is a solid backbone of amber - a bonafide amber that has been given further texture enhancements by the use of musk, wood and patchouli.

Complex in nature, yet never challenging to appreciate. Where Goutal's Encen Flamboyant flaunted incense in all its glory, but fell short of giving me more than just one face; and Lutens's heralded Ambre Sultan was over-exuberant in the spice department, L’Air du Désert Marocain was begotten as the answer, the perfect child.

Amidst this incense/amber goodness, I can't help but notice a tarry leather accord laced around the scent like a belt, containing some of the floral and ambery sweetness.

Seriously, one of the meatiest ambers alive..

Thank you, Mr Tauer.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Parfumerie Generale: Iris Oriental (Taizo)

I think Iris Oriental (Formally known as Iris Taizo) may be an attempt to steer away from the stereotypical presentations of iris.

This one opens with a juicy raw cut carrot accord, the kind of carrot you get in Iris Silver Mist, without the vapory feel. As it settles, the texture seems to go smooth, balmy and powdery at the same time. Vanilla and honey add to the natural sweetness in well-measured moderation. Incense, wood and resin, give Iris Oriental a more well-rounded character. On the whole, this feels like an iris amber.

I actually like how this one manages to refrain from smelling like cosmetics powder.

I think it is safe to say that Iris Oriental is like a Cuir d'Iris without the leather, with amp-up iris and powder. Great for someone who prefers a straight-up rich and rooty iris scent, and is a little jaded by the usual iris soliflore.

Parfumerie Generale: Cuir d'Iris

I think it is well-established by now, that I enjoy my iris as much as my leathers. Pierre Guillaume once again hits those 2 olfactory spots in a flawless victory. There is a distinct "PG" quality and style (like a thick, dusty/smoky cloud) I notice in his musk laden, animalic amber creations, previously most prominently so in Felanilla and L'Ombre Fauve. Cuir d'Iris is another model representative that harbors that style.

I believe it is down to the execution of marrying iris to leather so perfectly, that it comes off unpretentious and effortless, like as if they never existed separately. Upon first whiff, I get a mind-bogglingly natural smell of fine, buttery, supreme grade leather, exuding succulence and opulence, without even coming close to overwhelming the senses. All this happening, while the iris (in good amount mind you), so seamlessly included from the start, feels like it's been powdered over the leather.

It is not long after appreciating and acknowledging the harmonious leather-iris blend, that I start to notice that the scent has built up quite a thick, woody and dusty cloud of smoke(the smoky amber I spoke of earlier). It is this permeative cloud that is present in L'Ombre Fauve as well. And like-wise in Cuir d'Iris, the vanilla provides sweetness to the balance which might have easily been deemed to be very dry. It stays pretty much a smoky leathery amber till its dying moment, many hours later.

This is truly an amazing piece of work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bond No. 9: West Side

"Cream Rose"

I will avoid discussing the inspiration of this scent since I am neither acquainted nor interested in why or how this could smell like homage to Jazz music.

Bond no. 9 scents are (in)famously known to be derivative concoctions, (I'm sounding harsher than I meant to be)bearing only one aspect of a niche trait - Price. I'm not highly enthused to explore them extensively, but every now and then, I chance upon one that I just click with.

West Side is a rather simple, clean and soft scent. Under most circumstances, stereotypes and associations, this one might just steer a little more to the girl-y side of things.

It opens with a light and creamy rose + vanilla + sandalwood combination. It comfortably sheds the floral notes as the first hour or so passes, and the main program of creamy and smooth sandalwood and vanilla starts to run its course. I seem to notice a plastic-y/chemical-y accord in West Side, though not in any negative sense. I actually quite enjoy this aspect.

In the ending phases, soft musk which has always been around, starts to reveal its role in the comforting, soapy-clean silk veil over my skin.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tom Ford: Tobacco Vanille

Tobacco Vanille unlike what the name might suggest, is not a typical smokey vanilla monster ( I believe the tobacco reference here is one of unsmoked tobacco leaves.) Instead, it is a rather linear blend of honey, dried fruits and vanilla.

This isn't a rich or thick dessert-y concoction either. This ambient scent greets you with the sweetness of honeyed and slightly-spiced dried fruit, lightly layered with vanilla. In fact, the vanilla stays rather quiet and mostly complimentary for most parts of the top and heart phases, revealing itself more prominently in the final stages of the dry-down as a typical vanilla skin-scent.

Longevity and sillage is impressive, and for good reason if you enjoy it upon first spritz - it doesn't evolve much.

I'm hardly blown away, but this will serve you well if you're looking for a simple and cozy olfactory companion, much like burning vanilla-scented beeswax candles.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Domenico Caraceni: Ivy League

Given a name synonymous with an elite group of institutions bearing proud traditions of sporting and scholarly excellence, Domenico Caraceni's Ivy League certainly has a lot to live up to. naturally I expect a fragrance that is youthfully 'preppy' yet conveys a certain sense of tradition.

Ivy League opens briskly on my skin with bitter citrus, gradually softening to a sparkling blend of light white florals that retains enough of its green soapy profile to keep its sillage freshly-preppy and away from 'mature women' territory. There is also the occasional hint of earthy vetiver roots reminiscent of Dior's Eau Sauvage - faint at first but gaining prominence as the florals recede. Projection and sillage are both tastefully moderate, with just a touch of sweetness in the earthy musk drydown.

While I do wish for the citrus soap element to last longer, in terms of concept Ivy League delivers. Yes, the opening may come across somewhat detergent-like to some but the fragrance development itself is as exhilarating as a road trip with your college buddies. I also think Ralph Lauren would kill to have this formula - Ivy League would have been an outstanding addition to the Polo family!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By Kilian: Back to Black

I love Amy Winehouse's Back to Black and by that association alone I'm probably prone to wax lyrical about one of Calice Becker's more recent addition to the By Kilian line. But is this scent worthy of the lines devoted to it in many of the perfume blogs? The short answer is 'YES'.

The opening is bittersweet and fleetingly smoky, with hints of dark cherries and rum-soaked woods. References to 'cherry liqueur' are not too far off base for it does seem redolent of cask-aged liqueur.

As seconds pass into minutes, it gets warmer and syrupier with cardamom, ginger and spices lightly woven into the sweet benzoin-and-honey based tapestry. At this point the composition could have easily turned into a gourmand gingerbread-type of scent if not for the distinctively rendered and rather distinguishing note of cured unsmoked tobacco leaves. The juxtaposition of a dark and, I might add, masculine element with the warm golden glow of honey works brilliantly, producing an intoxicatingly rich scent that is warm and comforting yet oddly intriguing - it invites the nose to get very close to the skin and explore. Rather sensual indeed. Perhaps that's why Back to Black is also called 'Aphrodisiac'.

To my mind Back to Black is not so much of a fragrance than it is an experience. It serenades me in the language of the five senses, of dark rich colors and luxurious fabrics, of clinking cognac glasses and soulful jazz, of deeply lingering tastes and intoxicating scents. While I'm not fully convinced of its versatility as a wearable oriental, I can appreciate why it is regarded by some as a true By Kilian masterpiece.

Diptyque: L'Ombre dans L'Eau

If wearing Serge Lutens' Sa Majeste la Rose makes you feel as though you're holding a lush bouquet of fresh red roses, then spritzing on some L'Ombre dans L'Eau might feel like fixing a single dark rose bud on the lapel of your dinner jacket. I simply adore the way it wears on my skin -tiny dewdrops green with hints of crushed leaves and broken stems but losing none of the luscious signature of the Bulgarian rose. The rose note never gets overbearing but stays tasteful throughout, a single budding rose peeking out of the foliage. I believe when it comes to rose soliflores, few could come within touching distance of this elegant Diptyque bestseller.

Enchante. 'Shadow on the water' indeed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Etat Libre d'Orange: Rien

My (winning) streak with Etat Libre d'Orange continues with Rien.

Rien is a leather lover's must have. Let me warn you that this is not the typical sweetened leather concoction. And most people will tell you that it is extremely dry: fact.

Rien strikes me as a rubbery, soapy, tarry, aggressive, civety leather. In a huge sense, I could relate Rien to the smell of burnt rubber. It opens with a huge dose of soapiness, wrapped in a thick cloud of rubbery smoke, while exuding bitter tones of leather, to the point it feels a little medicinal and anti-septic.

All that being said, I think the term (I'll borrow it from my friend and fellow Basenoter - Moltening) that best encaptures most of Rien, is "Mineralic"/"Smell of wet stone". It just clicked for me, when I read his review on Rien.

As Rien retires and settles, I get light whiffs of almost-sweet rose and incense, something which I must have missed earlier in that bitter haze.

This is one of the most daring scents I've encountered yet.