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ColinM 8 years ago 4
Stay away
A drastically unimpressive sort of herbal-woody-fresh & musky suede-infused designer mishmash, a sort of fruity “neo-fougère” ideally between Cerruti Essence and Canali Style, just fruitier. Surely, as other reviewers mentioned already, the fruity-ozonic head accord paired with suede and that whole musky-woody foundation echoes Grès Cabaret Homme a bit too, given the nose is also the same, but well... Canali contains too much musky plastic to be realistically compared to that. I mean literally – take all those notes, and wrap them in plastic, that’s how Canali Men smells. Cabaret smells maybe a bit more conservative, but way crisper, bolder and overall much better made than Canali (and it’s way cheaper than that).

I admit that the touch of pineapple (or whatever that head aromachemicals are intended to evoke) works fine with the musky-suede accord though, creating a sort of poor man’s Aventus-like feel in a cheaper disguise (and that says it all, since Aventus isn’t exactly Patou pour Homme). But that’s however a very minor positive nuance of an otherwise desperately dull concoction – which besides being flat and weak from the very beginning, is also ridicolously short-lived. Desperately lacking in anything making it worth even just a third of its current collector’s prices.

ColinM 8 years ago 8
Christine Nagel at her finest, no surprise she’s been chosen to inherit Ellena’s throne. A charming whiff of sophisticated, mellow, androgynous, hyper-modern, clean yet somehow “mysterious” and moody spiced Oriental orange-infused woods. This is Oud & Bergamot by Jo Malone, a refined, minimalist, very well conceived experiment around the contrast between the aromatic, luscious smokiness of oud and cedar (and suede, I think), and the graceful, pastel, zesty and slightly floral touches of bergamot and citrus, with a hint of cinnamon-like touch of sweet – just as in Fendi Theorema for women, also composed by Nagel. All done with an amazingly well-engineered weightless texture taken to the very extreme – basically, pure thin scented air. It feels like a perfect olfactive rendition of some abstract watercolour featuring harmonic drops and brush strokes of pale orange, pale brown, pale black. All smells even, smooth, airy and pale, yet totally “there” under your nose. It’s like smelling a linen shirt previously sprayed with a hypothetical “true” substantial version of Oud & Bergamot – this is how the actual Oud & Bergamot smells. It’s there, and yet it isn’t. Like the suspended memory of a scent, more than an actual scent, and yet it’s there materializing under your nose. Fascinating to say the least. And it’s all done so terribly right, as all notes manage to smell crisp, smooth and clear, yet subtle.

The scent is very simple actually, basically a fairly linear and “white-ish” sort of musky-suede rendition of (synthetic) oud and cedar tinted with some orange and cinnamon. It’s the way Nagel made it that makes it so special. It takes some guts and skills to take these notes and turn them into an impalpable whiff of watercolour mist (I mean, it takes some guts to do it right and not end up with an ephemeral fart of a constipated princess). More than compelling and more than a scent, a little piece of minimalist art. Obviously not a “bomb”, very subtle but quite persistent, more than one may assume: somehow you smell it around yourself for hours and hours even if it seems disappearing from your skin soon. This close to smelling just dull and weak – and maybe it is, and I’m just overestimating it – but I find it just lovely.

ColinM 8 years ago 3
It works!
Unlike its Creed’s namesake sibling, which is all about “royal” with zero oud, Royal Aoud by Montale contains a ton of (synthetic) oud with a very little dose of “royalty”. In fact, like most of other scents by this brand, it isn’t exactly the most refined or “luxurious” scent around; but I admit I do see the efforts of making something a bit more sophisticated than their average standards. Also, contrary to many other more recent ouds by Montale which contain the same exact flat accord of mostly dry cedar with a weak oud-like shadow, Royal Aoud seems belonging to their “slightly-closer-to-reality” family of ouds – the nicer and more quality ones. Don’t get me wrong, oud here is still artificial to the bone, but it’s quite substantial, and it shows some complex, even nearly-natural-smelling nuances: the note smells in fact medicinal, compellingly woody, slightly “fecal” too at the beginning, quite robust and dirty, with a solid earthy-oily foundation just like real agarwood. Shortly it’s not just a slap of depressingly linear and shallow dry-cedary rubber, and that’s already something with Montale. So far, I got some “good imitation oud” only out of White Aoud and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie – and now, Royal Aoud.

Also, it’s surely enjoyable how they chose to pair it with an initial solid whiff of clean, bracing citrus, and a sort of floral-resinous, slightly candied base accord, which sweetens and tames down the acrid, medicinal-dirty nature of the oud note, finally revealing a quite pleasant, comforting musky-soapy rose heart with a classic British “barbershop” vibe (an association also enhanced by the presence of citrus). There’s even quite some evolution as hours pass: from a sharp, bitter, dark and quite bold citrus-oud opening to a mellow, powdery, clean yet somehow a bit stale “whiter” rose-medicinal drydown still bearing some light fruity-grassy echoes of citrus, reminding me a bit of White Aoud’s drydown (less sweet and plushy, still musky-vanillic but a bit fresher, darker, greener and more austere). That’s quite a transition overall, which is another evidence of the above-the-average quality of this fragrance - compared with other Montale’s, I mean.

Nothing to break the bank for, but more than nice to wear and also quite “easy” to pull off. Kudos!

ColinM 8 years ago 8
Missed chance
Encre Noire à L’Extreme opens indeed as an “extreme” version of Encre Noire, where “extreme” is to be intended as more powerful, rougher, drier, more woody, somehow more “mature”, a bit more dirty, and ultimately with some more “oomph” than that. It doesn’t smell particularly “natural”, and I guess that’s part of the concept, but surely it does have something crisper, rootier, earthier if compared to the round, and kind of muted synthetic “inkiness” of classic Encre Noire. It’s also quite woodier, thanks to cypriol and to some more cedar. Be reminded I’m talking about nuances, the main bone structure of Extreme is still clearly Encre Noire – nothing dramatically different. But still, especially (and sadly, only) during the early stages, there is indeed enough differences to make this Extreme stand on its own. It smells basically like Encre Noire briefly drenched in wet balsamic woods (cypress) and dusted with pencil shavings and incense ashes, almost making it resemble to a sort of a lighter, drier, more cedar/incense-oriented version of Jovoy’s Private Label (Encre Noire à l’Extreme is nothing remotely that complex or intriguing, but there’s some slight connections) infused with a drop of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu (again – not hinting that the quality is the same; just a matter of superficial similarities between notes, especially some sort of similar “papery cypress” feel). Finally, just mix that with Montana’s Graphite kind of “freshly cut dry cedar”, and here’s this Extreme flanker of Encre Noire.

Now, despite the first minutes seemed quite promising, I must say that overall I’m a bit underwhelmed by this scent - the main issue being that it quickly starts to smell a tad more synthetic and flat that I wished, especially at this price point (but I guess there’s a reason why this is already widely available at a fraction of its original cost). It’s not bad, it’s actually fairly decent; but the dry ashy-cedary part soon smells as much nice as muted, generic and heavily artificial, so do vetiver and cypress, and incense – all notes, basically. I wouldn’t consider Extreme “cheap”, as even if it smells quite synthetic and a bit dull it’s a well-played, ultimately quite pleasant kind of synthetic. Still it doesn’t really keep up with the initial promises for me, soon that “oomph” I mentioned will be just a souvenir. And since Extreme is also heavily linear, there’s really no hope for some twists or changes (which in fact, don’t happen, except for a weak sort of “velvety suede” feel I get after a couple of hours, which combined with vetiver, kind of reminded me of Jil Sander Man by Wasser and Menardo from 2007).

All in all this isn’t strictly a bad scent, but not a great one either. Not even a “very good” one for me, just more only “boringly nice” with a subtle bitter aftertaste of disappointment. This may be a smart choice if you’re looking for your first and only “night vetiver” to own and you don’t want to bother trying others: but be sure to get some good discount though, as this isn’t worthy the full price tag.

ColinM 8 years ago 1
Solid everyday vetiver
I am missing the “black” part here, at any stage, but nonetheless... what a compelling smooth and modern vetiver this is. Along the line of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver, but noticeably more quality to any extent for me: crisper, more natural, more vibrant, with a more “dimensional” texture, slightly rawer too (or, say, maybe just more “genuine-smelling”). A bit similar to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s Racine as well, mostly for the citrus-vetiver combo, but somehow more transparent, slightly colder and overall more “minimalistic” than that – shortly, more contemporary. The evolution of Black Vetiver is quite simple, basically it starts off with an invigoratingly vivid splash of zesty lemon supported by an initially toned-down elegant accord of smooth, salty vetiver infused with something which smells like a sort of aldehydic musk to me; it’s very subtle, but it gives a peculiar texture to the woody base accord, making it smell as a sort of a greyish, breezy vetiver “mist” sprayed on dry concrete. Well, I’m making it sound more avantgarde than it is, but that’s more or less the effect I get here.

Once most of the greenish top notes of lemon fade away, it’s all about some really great, high quality, vibrant yet pleasantly civilized grassy-salty vetiver still surrounded by that breezy sort of dusty mist I mentioned above – and still lightly infused by some citrus nuances. But most of all it’s vetiver though, and it’s completely, indisputably pleasant as only good vetiver can be. It smells very natural, very woody and grassy-salty (no “inky” nonsense or whatever other ill synthetic rendition of it). And like good vetiver does, it smells also at once very elegant, yet terribly laid-back and easy to wear. As the drydown progresses, some more somber, smokier and slightly sweeter nuances arise, but at no point it will get too “black” – just a bit quieter and moodier, but with a palpable salty-breezy feel underneath. More than “black”, a “grey-yellow vetiver”.

That’s it, it may sound simple and it actually is, but it’s a pure, vibrant kind of simple, something more than pleasant to wear. Thank God none of Guillaume’s trademark mish-mash concepts are here, no weird mojitos and no chubby gourmands gone wrong. This doesn’t smell at all like one of his creations for me, and maybe that’s why it smells so nice. By far my favourite “modern” vetiver, a refined everyday gem and a perfect contemporary companion to the nicest old-school vetivers like Guerlain’s or Carven’s. Still quite overpriced but totally worthy if you can get some discount.

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