Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Bleu de Chanel by Chanel

Waiting for the launch of Bleu de Chanel was tough, like a boy standing outside a candy shop sans argent. Everything about this fragrance visually is right up my alley. The bottle is square, sleek, masculine and heavy with a magnetic bottle cap, and blue is my favourite colour. I badly wanted the fragrance to blow me away, just like how Egoiste did, and Bleu de Chanel was almost there in packaging  ... the final answer lies with the first spritz.

I realised how ridiculously tough Jacques Polge's job is/was. You have the world waiting and hoping for you to create another shocking masterpiece (to add on to your resume of many) but at the same time, you have these sweet guidelines from the lovely people at IFRA, and more importantly, the executives at work hounding you everyday to make sure you create a commercial success while spending as little as possible. Of course, this is pretty much the situation for most perfumers, but when you are working for a legend of a company like Chanel, the hard becomes harder.

The final answer? This is a commercially safe fragrance and should satisfy the monetary expectations of a business, but it's not one to be remembered. It's not a scent that I'd ever crave for, but it's also a scent I'm happy to wear to the office on an unassuming day. Bleu de Chanel follows the masculine 'blue' trend with woody aromatic structure, a proven winning formula as seen in Versace pour Homme and the recent toxic spray can flanker Boss Bottled Night. In a way, it is a crucial strategy to gain dominance of the men's market.

The fragrance is very smooth and well-blended, opening with sharp citruses and pink peppers, into a synthetic cocktail of virginia cedarwood, sandalwood, jasmine and incense, that extends to the base supported by labdanum, coumarin and oakmoss. The overall effect is clean, fresh, masculine and sleek. It is neither original nor revolutionary, but just another conventional men's fragrance from a luxury house tailored to sell.

Rating: ***

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Very Orange Triple Bill


Possibly the most recognised fruit in the world, our little citrus friend has claimed its place in the kitchen, especially during breakfast, formed a strong partnership (and very delicious one too) with duck, and is to perfumers what rice is to the Chinese. The humble orange, thought to be the love child of pomelo and mandarin, plays such an important role in perfumes that I feel it is only fair to give it a mention. This cheap and widely available material is not only versatile, but indispensable in this delicate art of mix and smell.

Act 1 - Les Nuit d'Hadrien by Annick Goutal

Sitting under a cypress tree at night in Tuscany and inhaling the Mediterranean air is what Les Nuit d'Hadrien purport to express. This is a timeless story of indulging in the simple desires nature has to offer. There is no extravagance here, just a basic need to be comfortable.

Les Nuit d'Hadrien is charming and lightly European. She blooms with green citruses accompanied by spices and a teaspoon of brown sugar. This bitter-sweet ensemble transform into a cool temperate forest with wild cypress, basil and juniper before settling down to a gentle base of amber and vanilla. This sensual arrangement makes Les Nuit d'Hadrien a perfume you can wear forever, if you can only choose one. ****1/2

Act 2 - Solo Pop by Loewe

Recently introduced Solo Pop is a new generation flanker of the Loewe Solo family. Inspired by the pop-art movement and Andy Warhol, Solo Pop represents the modern man in his pursuit to balance work and pleasure. 

As I am typing this, I cannot help noticing how my writing style changes with each perfume I smell. With Solo Pop, I just want to get it over and done with. Solo Pop opens with citrus notes that in my opinion, smells bizarre. After pondering, my still-useful brain came up with an apt description - orange-scented air con cleaner. The aromatic heart notes featuring thyme, coriander, verbena, lavender and rosemary did nothing to make it smell less synthetic. Instead, the air con cleaner is smelling more like expensive Lysol. 

Matching the scent to the concept, I think Solo Pop is quite a synthetic success. Orange from a spray can. **

Finale - Little Italy by Bond No. 9

A neighbourhood area in lower Manhattan thriving with tourists and dozens of Italian restaurants and shops, Little Italy once housed a large population of Italians. I believe the general consensus is Italians are loud and passionate people. 

Bond No. 9's Little Italy certainly did not shy away from that. This is one loud and proud orange, and even more in your face than the juice-squirting Sunkist ad. Forget about top, middle and base notes. Little Italy is an epic linear orange story. Peel 100 oranges till your hands wrinkle, and smell them and you smell Little Italy. From the zest, to rind to juice, this perfume is a full tribute to our very humble orange. Do not be mistaken and think this smells like orange essential oil. It does not. The essential oil is too gentle and soft to be Italian. This is concentrated orange powered with a good dose of hair spray. Haute couture orange. ****

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: High Line by Bond No. 9

If there's ever industrial art in a bottle, it has to be High Line. Making scents out of logical places like world famous cities, historical locations and beaches make sense and from a marketing pov, sells. Making scents out of a place described on wikipedia.org as 'The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) New York City park built on a section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattan, which has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway' makes you lift an eyebrow. I did, when I caught wind that Bond No. 9 was to put the park in the bottle. 

Being a non-New Yorker, I googled and first reaction was: rust and grass?oh dear! I've never really taken much notice to the smell around our local rail tracks and to be honest, I was a little tempted to go on my knees, crawl and attempt to sniff. Fortunately, Bond No. 9 is not one to take it literally as evident in their past creations. 

High Line is a clever composition featuring notes of nature found along the tracks such as purple love grass, Indian rhubarb, red leaf rose, tulips, grape hyacinth, sea moss, teak, bur oak and musk. Might be a good thing there is no notes of rust, smoke, tar, grease, insects. Compared to the other Bonds, High Line is delicate and soft. The opening is ozonic and green, but not chopped grass. It is the beautiful cool morning breeze passing through fluttering grass, evapourating the sweetened morning dew infused with the scent of delicate freshly bloomed flowers. Towards the heart, it becomes interestingly even more aquatic and floral before settling into a light woody trail. 

I consider this an amazing creation because High Line is very wearable with fantasy notes that do not feel a bit synthetic so kudos to perfumer Laurent LeGuernec. For you bottle lovers, you will be pleased to know that the 'High Line' on the bottle is an actual metal cut-out that is glued to the bottle!

Rating: *****

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: L'EAU by Serge Lutens

Honestly, I do not know where to start with this review. L'EAU is a fairly recent offering by Serge Lutens and is supposedly an 'anti-perfume' for the days you want to stay away from the roses, civet and patchouli. Shocking? No. This is not the first time we are hearing 'anti-perfume' as it has been marketed over and over again by CdG, Escentric Molecules was in my opinion along the same line and not forgetting CB I Hate Perfume. How about clean, linen-inspired scents? Original? No. Niche brand CLEAN has been doing it for years, and so has Demeter. Scent wise, this fragrance is hardly shocking nor original, but coming from Serge Lutens, it is both shocking and original. Thinking of analogies, perhaps an equally scary one is trying to imagine Christian Lacroix selling soft, clean, white, cotton t-shirts. Horror.

Marketing aside, the scent is more than detergent. It is lemon-scented starch spray. L'EAU smells like a spanking new luxury hotel room in all white; it smells like freshly pressed $500 shirt; it smells like you have a lot of money to spare. Compared to the harsh and sharp quality of CLEAN's scent, L'EAU is actually rather charming and refine. The clever combination of citruses, aldehydes, clary sage and magnolia smells naturally clean and the slightly salty ozonic and musk notes evokes purity and comfort.

The longevity however is a nightmare leaving me scentless in under an hour. Maybe that is the concept of the 'anti-perfume'. Regardless, I still do think this is a charming scent and it makes a perfect room spray for my clean white bedroom walls.

Rating: ***

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Interview with RJ Ledesma

"Smells like DOM spirit: Author RJ Ledesma and perfume expert Eugene He (his name, not the pronoun) investigate the olfactory connection."

Finally, the very humourous interview with RJ Ledesma of The Philippine Star is out at  Smell My Wrath. Be sure to check it out!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Bel Ami by Hermes

Bel Ami has got no connection to the famous porn production house but was inspired by the 1885 French novel of the same name. One can possibly argue that Bel Ami the novel in its time was as good as porn literature. Scandals upon scandals, how did this 'beautiful friend' become an inspiration for a fragrance? Beats me, but I'm glad it happened and Bel Ami the fragrance was created.

I obtained the original juice five years ago and it was out of this world beautiful, at least in my opinion. The first whiff transported me to a library in the 19th century - leather book bindings, old newspaper, acidic ink, leather upholstery, dust, fire place, tobacco and unwashed homosapiens. Never mind it broke me in rashes; I'd wear it even if my skin blisters. 

That bottle was precious, and the greatest irony of all happened: I lost it. Yes, I somehow stupidly misplaced a treasure. Fast-forward, I finally bought a new bottle today and what's better to celebrate this reunion than a well-deserved review? Sadly, the new formulation (I am pretty sure it was tweaked since I don't break into a rash anymore) 'cleaned' up Bel Ami. The scent and idea is still there, but it's lacking the depth and raunch of the original. The citrus notes are much cleaner, leather less castorum-like, and oakmoss is seriously diluted.

Bel Ami kicks off with well blended aromatic cocktail of citruses. The heart is carnation and orris, scandaled by dirty, smoky woods, and bound together by a handsome base of leather, oakmoss,vanilla and vetiver. It's truly complex and to quote Beauty and the Beast - 'bitter sweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong'. Ahhh ... scandals.

Rating: ***** (original)
           ****1/2 (new)


Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Tom Ford For Men Extreme

Not many fragrances tempt me the way Tom Ford's does. If you have read my previous review on Tom Ford for Men, you will understand why I rushed home every night hoping to see the parcel. It was a very blind-buy as I refused to read any reviews nor articles before I bought it as I really needed a blind date.

The bottle is over the top sexy featuring amber glass contrasted with gold making it ostentatiously retro, luxurious and desirable. First spritz and I was glad I didn't have any preconceived idea of what this would smell like. It is nothing like Tom Ford For Men, not even a stronger more intense version.

This is literally a rich man's bonfire. Over a small fire, sprinkle some exotic spices, stick in a bunch of cistus and throw in a few leaves of basil. Inhale. It is rooty and spicy at the same time. Next, aggravate the fire with some cedarwood and while it's burning red hot, go generous with saffron and violet leaves. It's a good time to roast some plums while the fire is at it's peak. Now it's time to go all out and create trouble. Throw in your wife's Birkin and that ball of black truffle you've been saving for this big day. Pick your finest rum and douse the fire with it. Inhale. This is Tom Ford for Men Extreme.

Rating: *****
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