Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Amouage: Memoir Man

"Resonating the fragments of a memoir, this woody and leather fougere fragrance is inspired
by the sombre mood of an existential journey.
Both alluring and philosophical, this fragrance defies conventions and moves beyond sense and reason."

- quoted verbatim from

For once, the copy despite its grammatical error, can hardly be accused of superfluous hyperbole. Having worn Memoir Man over a couple of days I found it to be a well-behaved gentlemanly fragrance with some pseudo-philosophical underpinnings based on a backstory that leaves plenty of gaps for the fertile imagination to fill. Clever marketing, huh?

Another aromatic fougere this may well be but its artistry is a delight. In particular, the pairing of absinth and mint to herald the arrival of a lavender heart showcases the work of someone who truly knows her stuff. I enjoy this prologue lot, as brief as it is bittersweet, mildly camphoraceous yet hardly medicinal. The accompanying frankincense adds warmth and character but retains a wispiness that allows a mildly barbershoppish fougere accord to radiate right through. Nice but nothing outstanding. Or so my thoughts go. But as Memoir Man hits its strides, I find myself held spellbound by the rhythm of its pulse - the ebb and flow of the basenotes as they warm up on my skin, delivering subtle whiffs of musky woods one moment, creamy vetiver on soft leather in another. Genius! How anyone could deem it a linear scent is beyond me though I suppose a bad case of cold on a review day could throw a spanner in the works.

Like Dia Man, Memoir Man is on the quieter side of Amouage, its sillage seldom venturing further than a foot, but when it speaks, it is with the thoughtful words of a seasoned veteran rather than the prattling of a brash upstart. This is definitely not a scent designed to impress the impressionable crowd (hint), but it is this same cool, self-assuredness that makes it a winner in my books...or should I say 'future wardrobe'?

absinth, basil, mint, rose, frankincense, lavender absolute, sandalwood, vetiver, guaiac wood, amber, vanilla, musk, oakmoss, leather, tobacco.

Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men

Thursday, January 20, 2011

XerJoff: Oroville

I'll 'fess up. Tobacco scents are not the easiest to review. For many of us, when it comes to tobacco-inspired fragrances, we tend to look for familiar associations we have with tobacco from our past - be it the cherry pipe tobacco grandpa used to smoke or the cheap bidi favored by certain groups of people. My own earliest recollection of unsmoked tobacco is the lingering scent on the aluminium wrapper you find inside a cigarette box.

Xerjoff's Oroville is none of the above. For that reason alone, some reviewers may be inclined to think of it as a tobacco lite, with little tobacco. They are not necessarily wrong though some of those opinions might have been shaped by side-by-side comparisons to fragrances with more prominent tobacco accords such as Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille or By Kilian's Back to Black.

Surprisingly, the first note off the top of Oroville was galbanum with its unmistakable earthy yet balsamic profile. But Lanvin for Men this is not, the galbanum giving way to a blossoming spicy floral blend tinged with the peculiar mustiness of clary sage. Unlike in a number of other Xerjoffs, the neroli and orange flowers are very much subdued here, existing mainly to add some piquancy to the sweetish spiciness of the carnation-tobacco blend as it slowly unravels.

At this point of the fragrance development some might venture to suggest "clove cigarettes...??". Well, not quite, at least not to my nose. The aura of tobacco is nowhere near as densely crude nor as sweetly spiced as that of clove cigarettes. Neither does it have the dry unsmoked cigarette quality I find in Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille or By Kilian's Back to Black. The closest I could think of was the tobacco absolute used in Sonoma Scent Studio's Tabac Aurea but where Tabac Aurea's rendition is a little creamy and powdery sweet, Oroville's version leans towards lightly musky woods and dry spices. Distinctively masculine and hardly sweet at all.

Oroville wears close to the skin, perhaps a little too closely for most wearers, with elevated body temperature improving its projection ever so slightly. But I have to admit it is an intriguing, smolderingly sexy scent up close, poised perfectly to start a lusty spark from that little cuddle with a lover. It continues along this line until the 4th hour when the tobacco and spice start to wear off, dwindling down a couple of notches to a warm ambery drydown with subtle hints of galbanum. Not much vanilla though. Overall longevity is good, easily 8 hours on my skin and tenaciously survives even a light shower.

Much has been said of the quality ingredients in Xerjoffs. I'm happy to note that this is not just marketing blurbs. In fact, until Oroville, I have never smelled a tobacco note quite as beautiful. How does it compare to Tobacco Vanille and Back to Black? Let's just say that if the Tom Ford is a loud yet linear powerhouse, and the By Kilian a somewhat bombastic masterpiece, then Xerjoff's Oroville is more of an understated yet suavely classy fragrance for the gentleman who appreciates quality craftmanship. Anyone who expects an edgy, avant garde composition or a mind-blowing showstopper from their USD345 bottle of Xerjoff is clearly missing the point. But if you are the sort who favors a Breguet over a Casio when both tell the time almost equally well, you'll probably understand why there is always a place in the market for the likes of Xerjoff.

Is Oroville full bottle worthy? I honestly do not know. It's probably best to let your bank account be the judge.

chamomile, clary sage, carnation, orange flower, neroli, tobacco, musk, sandalwood, galbanum, vanilla, amber.

Photo: author's own