Author Archives: Varanis Ridari

About Varanis Ridari

Fragrance reviewer. 0% Hype. 0% Ego. 100% Devil. Candid opinions. Basenotes: Zealot Crusader. Instagram: The_Scented_Devil

Terra by Vince Camuto (2017)


Vince Camuto Terra by Vince Camuto (2017) youthfully follows on the heels of the previous Vince Camuto Solare by Vince Camuto (2015), a mostly-orange summery fragrance; and Vince Camuto Eterno by Vince Camuto (2016), a mature peppery mint and wood fragrance. When I say youthful, I don’t necessarily mean bubblegummy or clubber-centric, but I won’t say this isn’t sweet nor can’t be used in a night-out context. Mostly, Terra treads in a green resinous woody citric direction, with patchouli and a then-fashionable note of rhubarb in the heart. Sitting somewhere between Terre d’Hermes by Hermes (2006) and the following year’s Bvlgari Man Wood Essence (2018), Vince Camuto Eterno wants to see itself as a slightly sweeter and younger woody chypre sort of thing that feels perhaps more unique and generalist in nature than anything the brand had done up until that point. Does this succeed at finding such an odd middle ground? Maybe, but at least we know it sold well enough to earn Vince Camuto it’s first standard-line flanker in the form of Vince Camuto Tera Extreme (2020). This stuff almost writes itself with brands like Vince Camuto, but here we go.

The scent opens with what smells like bergamot and citron over geranium and rhubarb. There is a bit of benzoin and vanilla smoothness that creates the sweetness, which is a far cry better than the usual ethyl maltol blast we find, and then the geranium leads us into woody territory dominated by Iso E Super. The Terre d’Hermes comparison is strongest here, thanks to the way patchouli interacts with the cedar notes here, although it all gets disrupted by the vanilla and benzoin feel that is soon joined by tonka. By this point, there is no mistaking this scent for anything else really, although I understand why some think this was Vince Camuto running up against Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008), since that too had mostly tonka in the base under vanilla and citruses. The woody profile. and patchouli here are what prevent Terra from feeling “full clubber” in my eyes, even if the result of this mixture is a bit confusing. My guess is this became a dumb-reach discount gem for the Men’s Wharehouse guy I keep mentioning that this line seems meant for; and hurray, no juvenile “sexy” musk profile this time. Best use is whenever you don’t want to think about how you smell, although likely fall is the best season overall for a smell like this.

I’m still not quite sold on the brand, and therefore not really sold on this fragrance, just like I wasn’t sold on the others from the line I’ve tested. With John Vincent Camuto himself two years departed from the land of the living, we’ll not really know how much this or any other Vince Camuto fragrances really register with his self-made New York socialite style. One thing is for sure, the brand has more or less ditched the whole fake Cosa Nostra vibe and keeps its nose clean with fragrances and fashions that don’t look destined to wind up ill-fitting on your local Bronx neighborhood enforcer looking to collect his protection money from the area shops. Instead, we replace track suits and black BMWs for entry-level white collar world that leads me back to that slicked-hair fellow still trying to hand you his overpriced business cards with his own personal cell number on them, for “after-hours” engagements; nevermind that he’s the paralegal nose-deep in case research and not the guy whose name in on the sign, but whatever. Look for this at a Big Lots or Perfumania, priced accordingly. If only the juice inside was nice like the leather-bound bottles that carry it. Neutral

Vince Camuto Homme by Vince Camuto (2014)

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Vince Camuto Homme by Vince Camuto (2014) is a do-over, if I had to guess, for the lackluster reception of the eponymous masculine of two years prior. Vince Camuto by Vince Camuto (2012), also known as Original Cologne for Men, was a fairly by-the-numbers dark oriental leather sort of thing that rode the coattails of fragrances like Armani Code by Giorgio Armani (2004) or Emporio Armani He/Lui by Emporio Armani (1999). Granted, being about a decade late to that particular “dapper Italian suit” fragrance trope is a surefire way of giving yourself a one-way-ticket to bargain bin land (where the original Vince Camuto ended up), but combine this with the fact that John Vincent Camuto himself was a New York Italian-American through-and-through who worked his way up through his self-made Nine West empire should at least count for something right? I mean, it’s not like this line has the same low-rent “gabagool” pastiche applied to it that ultimately plagues all cultural product from New York Italian origin right? Right?? Well, maybe not, but it’s hard not to see someone like ‘The Situation” from The Jersey Shore over-sprayed in this stuff and then telling the press “it’s Vince Camuto, trust the process” when someone asks what he’s wearing. Yeesh guys, if you’re going to have a do-over, make sure what you come up with isn’t worse, thanks.

So this stuff more or less comes across safer than Vince Camuto (original), disregarding the ambery leather and powdery leather spice for aquatics and aromatics. That same sort of low-key sleezeball musk is there, the stuff you expect to smell in a lot of the “musk” themed body sprays dripping with rippled abs or whatever, but the rest is much more boring than it was in the OG Vince Camuto. The opening is aquatic notes and ozone, with bits of juniper and lemon smelling like a Tom Collins spilled into your generic aquatic fragrance from Bath & Body Works. Ed Hardy Hearts & Daggers for Men (2009) tried this mixed drink with aquatic vibe too, and I didn’t like it then either. The rest quickly goes downhill from there, with lavender and artemisia doing what it can to stop the tide, before the snoozefest synthetic wood notes mix with the “makeout artist” musk profile lurking beneath it all. Bits of green from fennel and sage come along after things really dry down, and eventually some cedar comes through, but it is so not worth the wait. Seriously, I had to struggle to keep this on skin that long. Besides, there are so many better cheaper aquatic options even from the likes of Nautica, and they don’t have the latent BOD Man energy musk mucking it up, either. Performance is thankfully only average. Best use if I had to use this would be in summer time, hopefully too drunk to remember smelling it.

Steve Demarcado worked on this, and his name doesn’t come up too often, so I am disappointed that he was wasted talent in this case, as I love what he did with Escape for Men by Calvin Klein (1993) over twenty years before. Hell, I even like Kenneth Cole New York Men (2002) better than this, and some people would string me up for saying so. Here is really just a dead horse aquatic being flogged with an out-of-place sweetened musk molecule to make it “sexy” and served up to Men’s Warehouse customer I mentioned in my review for the original Vince Camuto fragrance. At with that scent, Harry Freemont imparted some sense of class and did a neat blending trick by tucking the musk (which I assume is a house thing) under the suede note. Here, the awkwardly-dosed musk just hangs out drunk and shirtless just like The Situation used to do circa 2009 when The Jersey Shore first aired. Now, I’m not saying this is the worst fragrance I ever smelled, but I wouldn’t be saying this is something I’d want to smell either, for what its worth. The biggest sin here is VInce Camuto Homme crosses the streams of clubber and aquatic in ways that they need not be crossed, then serves it up in a blue version of the leather-clad bottle that has suckered in so many discount shoppers coming across the brand. It’s not RICO act worthy, but still criminal. Thumbs down

Vince Camuto by Vince Camuto (2012)


Vince Camuto by Vince Camuto (2012), also known as Original Cologne for Men since the launch of Vince Camuto Homme by Vince Camuto (2014), is the eponymous debut men’s fragrance for a brand that has now existed longer in the market posthumously than it did when John Vincent “Vince” Camuto was alive. This is because the late Mr. Camuto died in 2015, only three years after the brand launched itself into the world of fragrances after focusing on footwear for the first 7 years of its existence. Camuto had built an empire since 1977 eventually to be known as the Nine West brand, then giving that up in 1999 to form the Camuto Group only a few years later, which purchased Lucky Brand Jeans, launched Tory Burch, and helped Jessica Simpson create a celebrity fashion line. With Vince Camuto himself finally head of a fashion line under his own name, the de facto designer late to the party quickly branched out beyond shoes, his original product. Unfortunately, he was already in his 70’s by then and you know the rest. This fragrance came out behind the women’s lines that showed up in 2011, and Vince Camuto is a fragrance brand that falls victim to heavy discounts because few know the name.

So, what we have here is an oriental-style fragrance with black leather olfactive facets that sits somewhere between Armani Code by Giorgio Armani (2004) and the suede leather of something like the original John Varvatos by John Varvatos (2004). Harry Freemont was brought on to perfume this, and he deftly combines forms to make something that at first may seem fairly conventional with the combination of powdery, spicy, and leathery elements; but eventually turns into something a bit sexier than it appears. Now to be fair, I am not a huge fan of this style and do not like Armani Code, but I can at least appreciate the artistry and blending with the given budget. The powdery opening gives way to black pepper and nutmeg, becoming dusty before redolent lavender and sweet mandarin touches round things nicely. A suave musk also comes to bear alongside patchouli, vetiver, amber, and something which feels like guaiac wood to my nose. There is a certain sleeze factor with the musk choice, although not an overt sleeze, just more like a “fake it until you make it” kind of self-upsell that irritates the realist in me; but more on that later. Performance is pretty moderate all around, and this feels best in fall.

This reminds me of something you’d smell on a guy dressed to the nines in unfitted Men’s Warehouse duds, shoulders too big, pants too baggy, like an unintentional zoot suit with greased or gelled-back hair. This guy obsesses about his business cards like Patrick Batemann from American Psycho, but is a paper tiger otherwise, leaving them lying around with his personal number scrawled on the back hoping you’ll call that number instead looking for “after-hours” lechery. He isn’t the “club banger” type decked out in hypebeast designer outfits, and doesn’t like to swear for dramatic effect. Perhaps this binge-watcher of Boston Legal and driver of a leased Volvo Polestar wants to be in the big league wearing Creed on the lapel of his real Armani suit someday, as he closes the deal of the century. For now though, he’s just front office at the firm or real estate agency, and gets to take customers on tours of fixer-uppers not glorious enough for the namesake realtors to tackle. He’s probably only wearing Vince Camuto because he nabbed it at a Ross or TJ Maxx too, and the bottle had a leather wrap on it. Set expectations accordingly, and you won’t be disappointed, maybe. Neutral

Terre d’Hermès Eau Givrée by Hermès (2022)

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Terre d’Hermès Eau Givrée by Hermès (2022) is ostensibly the replacement for the outgoing Terre d’Hermès Eau Trés Fraîche (2014) composed by Jean-Claude Ellena as a warm-weather alternative to the original Terre d’Hermès (2006) he also composed. The reason stated by the brand is implied to be because the EU banned lyral and lillial in fragrances, saying that reformulating Eau Trés Fraîche to meet new regulations results in a drastically altered scent profile (suggesting Christine Nagel has already attempted it). The first thing you need to know about Eau Givrée is that is smells more like the OG Terre d’Hermès in the base than Eau Trés Fraîche did, meaning people who enjoyed the latter for the reason of it being different will be sad. Secondly, this is an eau de parfum like Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vetiver (2018), and will therefore be sold at an upcharge, unlike Eau Trés Fraîche, which was still an eau de toilette and actually came out to be a better value for giving 125ml at the same price of the OG’s 100ml bottle. The brand declares Eau Givrée a ceremony of opposites, a clash of fire and ice, and a bold new freshness. We’ll see about that. I hate superlatives and hyperbole as much in marketing as I do in reviews from online fragrance community personalities. Don’t make me a promise you know you can’t keep.

Smell-wise, Terre d’Hermès Eau Givrée seems to show Christine Nagel once more walking in Jean-Claude Ellena’s shoes, something we sometimes beat her up for, since she alternates between doing this and striking out on her own. I can sort of understand why, since Ellena’s style helped popularize Hermès after decades of stagnation and coasting on their painfully-classic leathers. Granted, this makes 20th and 21st century Hermès feel worlds apart, but I love it all anyway so I don’t care. Mostly I see Eau Givrée as borrowing some of the “cool” from Un Jardin sur Le Nil by Hermès (2005), ditching the fruitiness there in favor of juniper, then sliding a hot timut pepper note next to it for the “fire and ice” aesthetic the brand promotes. Citron and grapefruit zip with these frosty metallic aldehydes, also following in the Ellena way, smelling dry and fresh. Then, the familiar speck of dirt, cedar, patchouli, and carroty vetiver notes that characterize the original Terre d’Hermès come into the fore, reminding me once more that TdH was a further working of Cartier Déclaration (1998) by Ellena, itself an homage to his teacher Edmond Roudnitska’s Eau d’Hermès (1951). Round and round we go. Performance is light on projection, but not on longevity. Best use is honestly year-round, which is a rare leg-up on Eau Trés Fraîche, which I otherwise think trounces it. Damn those regulations…

Performance at EdP strength for Eau Givrée is better than Eau Trés Fraîche, but I prefer the marine-dipped neroli facets of the latter much more over the juniper and pepper treatment of the former. It’s just that a land-locked freshness like Eau Givrée provides seems less exotic and attractive in my mind than the by-the-coast vibes of Eau Trés Fraîche. Outside of that, I find Eau Givrée as a serviceable, if not actually better, replacement for Eau Trés Fraîche. Some may take the backup route on the former instead, and skip on Eau Givrée completely, and I wouldn’t blame them, although I posit the alternative of “Why not both?” like in the famous internet meme. To me, Terre d’Hermès Eau Givrée offers itself as the second substantial flanker by Nagel to the modern classic that is the original, and will at least prove less divisive among fans than her new pillar, H24 by Hermès (2021). If you weren’t a fan of Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) by the way of chrome-gleaming dystopia like the film Gattica, then skip H24 and head right to Eau Givrée instead, as it presents a gin and tonic approach to the earthly delights of Terre d’Hermès. This may be Nagel once again living in Ellena’s shadow, but I think it as much the suits at Hermès making her do it for profit reasons as it is her trying to preserve his legacy out of respect. Thumbs up

XX Artisan Teal by John Varvatos (2022)

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XX Artisan Teal by John Varvatos (2022) is only of any use if you miss Bvlgari Aqva Atlantique (2017), which was discontinued because it was yet another Paco Rabanne Invictus Aqua (2016) clone nobody needed. If you are tired of the infinite legion of Invictus Aqua or Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013) smell-alikes, you will not be happy with XX Artisan Teal. Throw it on the pile with Jimmy Choo Urban Hero (2019), Valentino Uomo Born in Roma (2019), Bad Boy by Carolina Herrera (2019), Acqua di Giò Absolu by Giorgio Armani (2018), any number of Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011) flankers, and a mind-numbingly large glut of Zara fragrances; because that’s where XX Artisan Teal will go anyway once it flushes out to discounters. After the fairly unique XX Artisan by John Varvatos (2021), I was hopeful for the brand, but not now. Stick to the back-catalog releases made by Rodrigo Flores-Roux back when he was their unofficial house perfumer, as they are leagues beyond this fragrance and worth their salt.

The opening to XX Artisan Teal holds a bit of promise, but so did Aqva Atlantique, with marine notes flanked by herbs and citruses. This is the sort of opening you can get with your bog-standard Nautica fragrance these days, and better experienced with the original Nautica (1992) or Nautica Blue (2006) anyway. After that 90’s/2000’s aquatic goodness, we take a turn for bubblegum land and it only gets worse from here, with pink pepper masking the sweetness somewhat but ultimately failing. The base is of course ambroxan, and there is a pinch of saltiness like in classic Acqua di Giò pour Homme by Giorgio Armani (1996), although it isn’t enough to save the fragrance. Performance is also pretty poor and that may be a saving grace, as by the end of it, your skin scent might as well be the late-stages of anything I mentioned above. If you really love this DNA and want a summer option, here you go, just try to remember the coolest part of this stuff is the bottle, which is honestly quite gorgeous and probably where most of the money went.

Who needs this besides Aqva Atlantique fans? Well, nobody. This yet another one on top of another one, next to another one, behind another one, in front of another one, alongside another one; and another, and another, and another; another, another, another, another, forever; and I’m tired, so goddamn tired, of smelling this. I fancy a wager that you are too, as even when Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche (1982) was being aped by a dozen competitors from Coflinluxe and Lomani to Houbigant, Givenchy, Alain Delon, and Pancaldi; none of these 80’s fresh fougères smelled so tediously similar to one another that anyone really put two cents together to realize they were all riffing off of Drakkar. These days however, designer clients practically force the oil houses to put competing product under a GCMS then ask to copy it closely as legally possible, and we end up with utter garbage like this. I’m pretty sure if the path to Hell is paved with good intentions, then it must be scented with fragrances having this DNA. Thumbs down

Le Mâle Pride Edition by Jean-Paul Gaultier (2022)

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Le Mâle Pride Edition by Jean-Paul Gaultier (2022) is a lighter version of the original Le Mâle by Jean-Paul Gaultier (1994), although Francis Kurkdjian was not called back to make it because he now belongs to Dior alongside his own house. This ushers in new blood in the form of Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Quentin Bisch, the latter of whom is usually made to grind out flankers for many designer brands, or at least those are the briefs he seems to win anyway. Jean-Paul Gaultier himself is very openly gay, if the bottles of his fragrances and his overall fashion sense didn’t give that away, so it makes only sense that this new Pride Edition turns up the fabulous just a notch with a sweet, fresh, fruity vibe that makes the wearer quite delectable without being cloying.

Now, I’m not saying this fragrance is only for “the gays”, and as a queer man myself, I can very easily see just about anyone wearing this regardless of gender or orientation, since its notes are of universal appeal. Blood orange and yuzu are listed in the top, and gone is the mint that made the original Le Mâle so iconic. Aldehydes replace that mint, and the orange blossom note of the heart is bolstered by some real neroli essence, rather than just the candied orange blossom of the 90’s pillar. There is a bit of bubblegummy vibe here too, much like Montblanc Legend Spirit (2016) or any number of Paco Rabanne Invictis (2013) flankers (or clones), but it is thankfully light. Dry Iso E Super woody notes and ambroxan round this out with a smidge of sage in the base to imply a light pseudo-fougère finish. To me, this reads very unisex.

Performance isn’t the best, but considering Pride Month is in the summer, my guess is this one tackles two objectives at once by being light on purpose, dual-serving as a summer flanker in addition to a limited-run Pride fragrance. As novel and fun as this might be, I feel the Montblanc Legend Spirit flanker covers enough similar ground that I don’t need it, although I still think the original Le Mâle is essential sniffing. The last time orange blossom was played with this overtly, it was in the failed Fleur du Mâle by Jean-Paul Gaultier (2007) made by Kurkdjian himself, and he cannibalized that accord repeatedly for his early MFK releases like APOM pour Homme by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2009) anyway. Therefore, I see this one getting similarly ignored, then later worshiped when it becomes a rarity. Such is life. Thumbs up

Haltane by Parfums de Marly (2021)


Haltane by Parfums de Marly (2021) might as well be Oud for Happiness by Initio Parfums Privés (2021) part II, because that’s what it is. Grossly expensive because it carries the Harrod’s exclusive colors and associated pedigree, Haltane offers little more than the warmed-over 3rd-generation cassette-dub of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2014) base which pervades so many of these modern “luxury” fragrances that confuse nose-blinding musk bases for “smelling expensive”. I do like Haltane just a smidge better than Oud for Happiness, but that isn’t saying very much. Strap on in, we’re going for another ride into delusional “haute parfumerie” meant to fleece the soulless rich (which is the only redeeming part). I have smelled worse at this price point so I’ll be as fair as I can, just keep your head down.

If you’re suffering from “affluenza” enough to fall for this bottle, what you’re treated to is a moderately green opening immediately tamped down by big doses of cashmeran, sclarine, and lavandin swilled around with some of that “candied” bergamot so popular in the designer realm. The saffron and praline notes so prevalent among most of the Initio catalog appear here as well, making me believe that’s where this formula was once destined until Harrod’s came a-knockin’ for a store exclusive from the brand. A bit of a formula switcheroo to make Oud for Happiness what it is occurred, while this went on to be a PdM scent, with Initio’s “oud” of woody-amber proportions stuffed into the base alongside timbersilk and ambrocenide scratch, smoothed by something that reminds me of the akigalawood in Montblanc Explorer (2019).

Performance is on par with the brand; but there is nothing exciting about this, and the bit about it being “specially blended for those who come to expect only the finest ingredients” is hilarious, as Haltane actually smells cheaper than the usual Parfums de Marly. Typically I can tell PdM gives their perfumers a higher budget than designers do, and they usually have more natural-smelling tops even if the base is full of nuclear-strength “beastmode” aromachemicals, but that simply isn’t the case here. This hits you like a ton of bricks plucked from the walls of Harrod’s itself, and I’d much rather buy something else from the store than Haltane by Parfums de Marly. Still, if you enjoy Oud for Happiness and want another shade of it in your collection, plus have the cash to burn, this might be a fit for you. Not my cuppa. Neutral

Basile Uomo by Basile Profumi (1987)

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Basile Uomo by Basile Profumi (1987) is the product of Weruska & Joel S.r.l from Torino Italy, and can be considered something of a B or C list masculine fragrance that was once taken for granted as a drugstore staple over in Europe, much like products from Antonio Puig or Maurer & Wirtz. Weruska & Joel were new kids on the block back in 1987 though, having only been around since 1980. The Basile range was originally manufactured (briefly) by S.I.R.P.E.A s.p.a., and resulted in eponymous launches of Basile Profumo da Donna (1986) and the aforementioned Basile Uomo the following year, with both scents following in a style considered mostly safe for the Italian market; a market that loved polarized gender themes thanks to very patriarchal cultural traditions. As many have now noted, a lot of masculine fragrances from this market up through the 90’s tend to swing the pendulum into the furthest reaches of macho-man land, to the point that Moschino began to parody it with their masculine fragrance releases. However, unlike the so-manly-its-comical nature of Moschino pour Homme (1990) and its super-skank-spice-leather bomb, Basile Uomo is serious about its masculinity and tracks accordingly. That isn’t to say Basile as a brand is not affable mind you, I’m just saying that it isn’t tongue-in-cheek like Moschino. Real “red-blooded man’s cologne” is this.

Here we see a bit of an inbetweener in terms of composition, as Basile Uomo isn’t full moss-boss like Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1986), but not the sharp pine and leather of Sergio Tecchini (1989) either. People have a difficult time categorizing Basile Uomo just as they do Quorum by Antonio Puig (1982), especially as reformulations seem to more drastically affect it as time goes on, just like Quorum. Basile Uomo makes basil an opening player (duh), but then moves into a mixed bag of artemisia, juniper, pine, and sandalwood rounded with dandy florals like indolic jasmine, carnation, and geranium. In effect, we have a really dark chypre structure here, and one that relies a lot on amber and patchouli rather than labdanum by itself or civet. Oakmoss is obviously prerequisite, especially for an Italian men’s fragrance from the 80’s, but don’t discount the castoreum either. To my nose, herbs over jasmin indole and amber dominate this one, and I like it; but due to complexity of formula, your mileage may vary. Performance is good with great longevity, even if Basile Uomo isn’t a screamer like some 80’s fragrances. Best use would probably be spring through fall, although the dead heat of Italian summers may make you want to switch out for something like Acqua di Selva by VIctor (1949), or Pino SIlvestri by Vidal (1955) instead.

Basile Uomo in its earliest S.I.R.P.E.A or W&J formulations (short list ingredients) treads the same ground as Chanel Antaeus (1981), Maxim’s pour Homme (1988), Caractére by Daniel Hechter (1989), and the aforementioned Quorum, in that it goes to 1970’s “brown town” with the aromatics and leather, but tosses in an X factor to make it feel more 1980’s. In Chanel’s case, this was done with juxtaposing soapy top notes with beeswax and triple animalics, while Quorum used tobacco and Maxim’s did the musty stale fruit bowl thing. The Daniel Hechter fragrance would come out at decade’s end and infuse lighter, fresher tones with its take on “brown”, while good old Basile Uomo here sat somewhere in-between them all, having the most-ambery finish of the lot. The green leather amber vibes here remind me a lot of the later Guerlain Coriolan (1998) and Avon Uomo (2000), but newer long-list bottles of Basile Uomo replace some oakmoss with soapiness and move the profile closer to something like Roger & Gallet L’Homme (1982), which isn’t necessarily bad even if not for me. Newest bottles with a different design tend to be compared to Paco Rabanne pour Homme (1973), so maybe that’s a different scent? Basile Uomo is not a must-have, but definitely an enjoyable, dependable mossy aromatic chypre. Thumbs up

Novochoc by Clandestine Laboratories (2022)

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Novochoc by Clandestine Laboratories (2022) is thoroughly unlike any fragrance carrying a cocoa note I’ve ever smelled; and that can either be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about strong gourmand notes in your fragrances. The elephant in the room on this scent is definitely the name, which corresponds to the Soviet-developed Novichok nerve agent still being used in some forms out in the world today, predominantly in post-CSS countries. I take it with a grain of salt because perfumery is not unfamiliar with the use of scandalous or controversial names for fragrances; but I can also understand how someone can easily equate the name of Novochoc for this perfume to the condoning of activities involving the actual Novichok nerve agent, although I note that such connections prove tenuous at best and that such political inferences by use of such a word play on the perfumer’s behalf can only be speculated at, but not proven. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this name, but I’m not taking anyone to task over it either, as shows like South Park have done far worse.

Now on to the actual smell, which I guess should be the point right? This is chocolate, undiluted, mostly unsweetened, in full force. There is little adornment to Novochoc’s primary cocoa note, and one could almost call this the perfumer’s homage to Baker’s unsweetened chocolate that every grandma used for her homemade devil’s food layer cake back in the 1950’s. The chocolate comes out surrounded by a little almond, flanked with a little spiced rose jam and jasmine, given some cinnamon facets redolent of Mexican chocolate a la Abuelita, then laid on an oriental-type base that carries it all well. Peru and tolu balsam alongside some incense courtesy opoponax fit with coumarin and a tonkin-type musk profile. I get wisps of some woody materials late stage in the wear, and Novochoc never feels thick or cloying like many other cocoa-dominant gourmands out there. Wear time is stellar, and you will smell this in a room with little application, so beware of potency here. Best use for me would likely be fall and winter as a personal enjoyment scent.

For me, this breaks down to be about 90% chocolate, and 10% everything else, with the rose jam and cinnamon coming to the fore the most among the remaining notes, and because I’m not the biggest fan of singular gourmand notes, I wouldn’t wear this. However, I do like the idea and execution here with Novochoc, with the name being left alone; I’m not going there, as they say. If you’re a fan of big singular food notes a la many of the niche coffee scents pervading the market nowadays, this is the chocolate equivalent to them. Furthermore, if you want a mostly unsweet take on chocolate in gourmand perfume form, Novochoc might be your best best bet; because literally nobody else is doing chocolate notes quite this directly that I’ve ever smelled, hence my opening statement. Style, quality, and performance are all here, with only perhaps a bit of linearity being my only real complaint aside from it just not being my vibe, so I’d fully recommend Novochoc by Clandestine Laboratories to the chocolate lovers out there looking for a serious indulgence in perfume form. Thumbs up

Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur

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Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur (1999) is sadly yet another testament to how creative and unique one of the first niche perfume houses used to be, but is no longer. Jean Laporte left Sisley to start L’Artisan Parfumeur, citing a need for return to artistry in the perfume industry after years of watching it increasingly become more under the creative control of soulless marketing ghouls, and after having only been with the former brand -which he also helped start – for only a few years. Ultimately, Laporte would leave L’Artisan too by 1983, selling the brand to Cradle Holdings, then emerging at the helm of Maître Parfumeur et Gantier in 1988; a brand focusing on taking French perfumery aesthetically back to it’ 17th century roots, when the indulgence of the noble classes spared no expense in composition and cared not about marketing to the unwashed masses. L’Artisan Parfumeur made a great many artistic and memorable fragrances, all truly niche in their limited appeal to the general public, but they sold at a modest premium and the brand had lifelong buyers. Like Jean-Claude Ellena’s L’Eau de Navigateur by L’Artisan Parfumeur (1982) before it, Olivia Giacobetti’s Dzing! was among the perfumes most signature to her developing style as a perfumer, and also like L’Eau de Navigateur, was brutally murdered ironically at the hands of those same soulless marketing ghouls, now in possession of L’Artisan Parfumeur itself. There’s no escaping the grim reaper of late-stage capitalism, and the bill always comes due, as it will for us all before too long with the way the world is shaping up thanks to them. Please excuse the bit of nihilism, but it’s hard not to be when watching the world literally burn in the fires of greed.

So the point of Dzing! was to be a recollection of Olivia’s in perfume form, an impression of visiting the circus from her memory. These days both Byredo, Maison Margiela Replica, and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle all try this same shtick with varying degrees of accuracy, and for much more money than L’Artisan did. Dzing! therefore has some woody bits, some hay-like and musky bits, plus some sweetness redolent of cotton candy or toffee found at an old English traveling circus. Dzing! takes some cues from Dertrand Duchaurfour’s Méchant Loup by L’Artisan Parfumeur (1997) which came out a few years before, but amps up the barnyard musk and hay aspects a bit, at least in the beginning. The opening of Dzing! will be the most challenging aspect of the perfume, with sour apple and cotton candy gourmand notes crisscrossed with urinous hyrax-like musks and suede leather notes. Eventually the hay-like tonka moves in, dry and not at all like the usual tobacco stuff you see in men’s fragrances. Saffron, ginger, and what smells to me like suederal comprise most of the heart, before cedarwood raw materials and something like the old 70’s style “fur rug” tonquitone musk notes finish this off. This switcheroo from unpleasant to pleasant animal musks is what makes Dzing! such a hoot and holler for both vintage nuts and niche lovers, not to mention muskophiles who love anything stanky, but the end game of Dzing! isn’t to be overtly stank, since the cedar and fluffiness offer some clean in the end too. Wear time is moderate, as is sillage, and Dzing! is no horny monster like some may paint it to be. As a somewhat lighter leather fragrance, I think you can get away with wearing Dzing! in most seasons save the dead heat of summer.

How much this really smells like a circus is really up to you, as I’ve personally never been to a proper three-ring circus in my life, and somehow I don’t think Cirque du Soleil counts. What I do know is Dzing! smells a bit more like how I would have liked Méchant Loup to smell, since that one was supposed to be horny werewolf bait and when I wore it, I was left stood up by my big fuzzy musclebound date for lackluster animal magnetism. In any case, Dzing! may seem wild and crazy to noses used to big ambroxan clean fragrances, but still doesn’t hold a candle to the classic whorehouse smells like Jicky by Guerlain (1882), Moustache by Rochas (1949), Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez (1982), or even Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (1981). It’s a shame really, most of those are discontinued too, as people are just so afraid of getting their hands dirty to smell good these days. At the end of the day, Dzing! is a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, coming out of the gate growling like a paper tiger, then succumbing to the clean cedar and cozy tonkin vibe in the base, starting off like an unhinged Michelle Pfieffer Catwoman only to go all seductress mode like Ertha Kitt Catwoman in the end. I do like Dzing! but I wouldn’t pay the insane finder’s fee prices of scalpers online now that L’Artisan Parfumeur has axed it along with most of what made the house so appealing. If there’s ever an argument for the “Shadow of Its Former Self” accusation lobbed by nostalgia-drunk vintage gatekeepers, it’s with the fate of the house responsible for this perfume. L’Artisan Parfumeur helped kick off the niche segment in protest of cynical market-driven perfume, and now like most of that segment itself, has come under control by the same cynics it sought to escape. Thumbs up