Author Archives: Varanis Ridari

About Varanis Ridari

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

Gucci Guilty pour Homme Parfum by Gucci (2022)

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Gucci Guilty Parfum by Gucci (2022) is the last hurrah on the men’s side of the fragrance line from departed creative director Alessandro Michele and does a bit of a full-circle on the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011), bringing back the lavender and orange blossom that defined that scent minus the ethyl maltol bubblegum and grapefruit, that through imitation by everyone else over the course of the next ten years, defined a generation of men’s designers. Yes, it’s true if you do your homework; Gucci Guilty is the origin of the species for everything from Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Homme (2012), to Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013), Y Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent (2018); and every other Jimmy Choo, Caronlina Herrera, and Valentino copycat to follow can all say thanks to the popularity of the original entry in this line. Gucci Guilty pour Homme Eau de Parfum (2020) was a pretty big deviation from the DNA, but so had been basically every flanker since the Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme (2017) entry, right on down to Gucci Guilty Cologne (2019), Gucci Guilty Oud (2019), Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme (2020), and Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme MMXXI (2021). In essence, it was time to return, after much failed experimentation, to the DNA that started it all, and somehow improve upon it. I feel that’s really what Gucci Guilty pour Homme Parfum does here, is take something that has become ubiquitous to the point of boredom, and makes it better. Better enough for purchase may depend entirely upon how you feel about modern Gucci fragrances overall.

So by making it better, what I mean is whatever perfumer was involved here did the things most folks had wanted with the line, namely by excising the ethyl maltol. With that component gone, the lavender and orange blossom mix (always the most unique part of the Gucci Guilty pour Homme DNA) is allowed to show its full floral complexity, almost coming across rose-like. The addition of jasmine to this mix, coupled with a thickening labdanum and a sharpening juniper, really make Gucci Guilty pour Homme Parfum something memorable. The labdabum base combined with patchouli and the usual sythethic woody compounds almost veer this into chypre territory, if not for the sheer white musks and other acetate-like things letting you know this is for the abstract modern designer space, and not niche. Still, the floral opening mixed with a dusty nutmeg and those thickening materials does wonders when freed from the bubblegum and ambroxan shackles of the OG Gucci Guilty, but it won’t be enough for the hate train that has cultivated for the better part of a decade against this fragrance since the old Scannon and Ford-era lines were all axed in the transition to Coty. Yeah, Frida Giannini made quite the mainstream mess of Gucci from a perfume perspective, and Alessandro Michele tried his best to undo that mess with a series of failed deviations; but at least here in the Parfum, we have something that could have been back in 2011, which might have saved the brand’s reputation somewhat with snobs and tastemakers, or maybe not. Best use is probably winter or indoors during more romantic situations, if anything seems more appropriate for this particular entry.

Performance isn’t super great if projection is your concern, although being a parfum, it almost goes without saying that this isn’t meant to be “beastmode” for the bros that only work within the confines of the modern dating scene because raping and pillaging like vikings when overdosing on testosterone isn’t legal. in modern society. If you can ignore the thick-necked neanderthals and their Jane Austin levels of anthropological thinking, you’ll find something more refined and sophisticated here made of a DNA that most had left for dead after the 19th nervous breakdown occurred from smelling the seventh son of a seventh son clone of the 2011 originator. So my thoughts are thus: If you wanted a more-sophisticated and mature take on the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme DNA freed of the stigmatizing things that haunt it, this may be for you. However, you’ll have a whopping upcharge if you don’t find a sweet deal from discounters or on eBay with the countless listings of folks who bought or were given bottles and ended up hating it. As an aside, this seems to happen a lot with the Gucci Guilty range in general, and ends up a reliable source for steeply-discounted “sprayed once” bottles for those interested in the line. I still think the real big stylistic deviations where Alessandro Michele had more hands-on control are the best of the range, but as unmitigated commercial disasters that are all discontinued (except for the Eau de Parfum), I’m probably in the minority there. Still, as the OG perfected this deserves merit even if the price makes it a tough pill to swallow, since this is still just a part of the standard line, or so the brand has us believe. Thumbs up

Gucci by Gucci pour Homme (2008)

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Gucci by Gucci pour Homme (2008) came at a time when Gucci as a brand was transitioning away from the “Porno Chic” era under Tom Ford, which had sustained many of the 1980’s Maurizio Gucci-era fragrances made by Scannon and added several of their own that continued a very retro-chic 70’s/80’s style for the house, replacing Gucci pour Homme (1976) with the rebooted Gucci pour Homme (2003) in the process. All of this came crashing to an end in 2004, when Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole took a walk to form Tom Ford International with backing from The Lauder Group, and while the contracts on the existing Ford-era fragrances were ongoing until about 2011, the new creative director Frida Giannini was trying to “ween” the house off Ford’s designs by recycling them while toning them down over time until her new vision for the house could gradually phase in. We saw this with fragrances when Gucci pour Homme II (2007) saw release the preceding year, alongside Gucci by Gucci (2007) for women. Gucci pour Homme II was much fresher and more modern than anything Tom Ford had directed under the men’s fragrance lines, utilizing tea notes and violet over a light tobacco base reminiscent of Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme (1994). Rumor had it that this fragrance here was originally meant to become “Gucci pour Homme III” but was changed into a men’s version of Gucci by Gucci at the last minute since there were plans to let the contract run out on all the Ford-era Gucci scents anyway, so having something in a series started with a Ford-era scent not long for this world didn’t make sense.

So to that end, this Aurelien Guichard-penned scent never made it into those thick, square bottles that house Gucci pour Homme and Gucci pour Homme II. and instead was dumped into the rectangle that houses it now, with a metal ring cap like a door knocker. The scent is very clearly inspired by Gucci pour Homme II, and may have even been a mod for it by Karine Dubreuil tinkered with later by Guichard. What I do know is this has some of the violet ionones from the opening of Gucci pour Homme II, and some of the tobacco in the base, but excises the tea notes and most of the other stuff in favor of stuff that might have read like “generic mall designer” to people used to things being bolder or more left-of-center with Gucci, particularly with the inclusion of ozonic cucumber/melon notes. Again, this was another transitional step towards what Giannini wanted for Gucci after the racy Ford era, and if Gucci pour Homme II was the first step in that direction for the men’s perfume side of the business, this was clearly the second such step. Patchouli, elemi, incense, and amber are all claimed in the base, and I imagine some aspect or proxy of the pricier ingredients is probably there, with the only “real” one used here being some isolate of the patchouli, since that’s very ubiquitous in the industry. As a sort of “blue” tobacco scent, which hadn’t really been done before despite the half-step in that direction by Gucci pour Homme II, Gucci by Gucci pour Homme is nothing if not innovative in its combinations of off-the-shelf materials, although artistic it is not. Performance is moderate, and this could be a daily driver or signature scent if so inclined, having no rough edges or weaknesses to speak of, as it were.

I can see guys who discovered the house of Gucci through this perfume being particularly enamored of it and using it as a signature. Gleaning over at that big website which starts with an “F”, where all the Andrew Tate-worshiping meatheads that see fragrance as a replacement for the pheromones nature failed to provide them during the weird mating ritual they make out of what otherwise should be normal dating, I see a great many waxing poetic about this scent because it was indeed a first love for them. I can get behind that, even if not much else that spews forth from those toxic and misogynist hellholes they call mouths, because if you still have the emotional intelligence of a 16 year-old at 30, you’re going to remember the best of times in regards to the thing that helped you “score” when you first hit the ground running, and this was it for a lot of them. Under that auspice, I can appreciate and respect Gucci by Gucci pour Homme, the first real “normal” and “everyday” Gucci masculine since probably Gucci Nobile (1988), which although made in a different era with different olfactive values in mind, was much the same meant to just be a general spray-and-go sort of deal for the guy who just wanted some action on Friday night or to smell good at the cocktail bar after work. A masterpiece this is not (and neither is the Nobile), but it’s also not particularly youth-driven like the Gucci Guilty (2010) and Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011) ranges would be a few years later. At some point Gucci renamed this Gucci pour Homme too, so ironically it did become the 3rd fragrance to use that name after all. Thumbs up

Ralph’s Club Parfum (2022)

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Ralph’s Club Parfum by Ralph Lauren (2022) isn’t terribly different from Ralph’s Club by Ralph Lauren (2021) from the preceding year, other than to be the usual “deeper, darker, more intense” shtick tacked onto the original composition. In a way, this is a “badge engineering” move from parent L’Oréal, everyone’s favorite sociopathic megacorp known for buying up and dismantling houses that compete with those in their portfolio, and then like GM of the 1970’s through 1990’s, producing pretty much the same product across all its lines with subtle variations to justify a Valentino badge over a Yves Saint Laurent badge. In this way, Ralph’s Club Parfum serves the same purpose as Armani Code Parfum by Giorgio Armani (2022) released the same year, being a heavier and more redolent “upgrade” for use in fancier surrounds, where the slightly more extroverted lower concentrations would be viewed as impropriety. Not that most people who buy stuff at department store designer fragrance counters really have much decorum or sense of social graces to begin with, especially when products like Ralph’s Club are more or less pitched to the “beastmode” one-night-stand seekers in altogether different clubs than the ones shown in the adverts. If you’re in that crowd, you may actually enjoy this iteration all the more than the original, but I can’t see anyone else really digging it.

There was much ado about Ralph’s Club proper; something to the tune of “old man yells at cloud” with buzzwords like synthetic, boring, mall drivel, generic, and so forth all being used; but once you run all that through the standard culturally and temporally myopic solipsism translator, you come away with “nothing can be any good because all the good things have already been done” drivel; and no, I won’t get off your lawn. My only real complaint about Ralph’s Club was its insistence on showcasing the new “it girls” materials in the base, which included sclarene derived from clary sage (much like ambroxan was), which gives this very punchy metallic smell when dosed super high like it is there. The rest was just a fairly entertaining fruity neo-fougère with a neat twist that didn’t deserve getting curb-stomped by a geriatric version of the MS-13 in review repositories across the internet. Ralph’s Club Parfum though, shifts the balance more heavily towards those compounds that were already bordering on being grating in the original, so the scales tip slightly away from me liking it enough that I can’t enjoy it. The fruity notes are toned down, and the patchouli is turned up, while the addition of cashmeran to the chemical soup here proves to be the proverbial straw on the camel’s back. There’s no hurting for performance though. Expect to spend 20 minutes scrubbing and then laundering what you wore to remove the smell from everything it touched.

Once you pass through the almost chocolatey neo-fougère opening, those aggressive woody-amber notes, combined with the sclarene, the cashmeran, and a woodshop full of sawdust coated in bright red pimento, you’ll be crying for Mr. Lauren to take back your VIP card to his club because you’ve decided to party elsewhere. Love or hate the original, it was at least balanced much better, and to think Dominique Ropion also composed this is a bit startling, as he usually does very well with up-scaling his own modern commercial work for brands like Yves Saint Laurent and such. I’d much rather stick with Armani Code Parfum and I don’t even really like that range at all (but I like the Parfum), and it’s because there’s nothing irritating in its design, even if it might be a bit stuffy or boring to someone well-versed in what’s out there. If Ralph’s Club Parfum was targeted by the “Neighborhood Watch” the same way the original eau de parfum was, I might actually join in with the antediluvian oakmoss huffers and shake my fists too, as this fragrance is really just taking an album and deliberately remastering it so that everything is peaking in the red. Oh wait, I forgot they actually used to do that in the 2000’s so people with tiny iPods could still drive themselves deaf at the cost of fidelity. The perfume equivalent of attending a Kiss concert in the front row without earplugs, but dressed in a tie. Thumbs down

Fumerie Turque by Serge Lutens (2003)

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Fumerie Tuque by Serge Lutens (2003) is another of the big tastemaker perfumes from Lutens when they were “at the top of the niche game” as the self-absorbed influencers would say over on Instagram. I get that a lot of these were some of the first niche perfumes anyone in the online fragrance community space had smelled; as like Creed, Lutens fragrances seemed to be in abundant supply with discounters for much of the first decade into the 21st century, meaning that if you smelled an unusual tobacco scent like this before you had a chance to smell something more-conventional like Aramis Havana (1994), your mind might be well and fully blown. These days though, the men’s perfume segment is full of rich and opulent tobacco experiences from bigger players in “the game” like Parfums de Marly, on down to designers like Burberry with their Burberry London for Men (2005) which debuted only a few years after this. Trickle down effect? Maybe, but it’s unimportant. What is important to know about Fumerie Turque is it is considered a house-defining scent from the brand, like Feminite du Bois (1992), Ambre Sultan (1993), Iris Silver Mist (1994), Muscs Koublaï Khän (1998), and Chergui (2001).

Looking back on this Christopher Sheldrake creation before he was really shackled as the supervisor of Olivier Polge at Chanel, we really get something that’s more akin to a semi-oriental fougère like Creed Bois du Portugal (1987) with rose acting in place of geranium, fused with bits of tobacco and honey, with a toe just barely dipped into something animalic to get that old-world Turkish horseback theme. Zeybek by Pekji (2018) would really revisit and take this theme to new levels later on, since the indie perfumer is actually from Istanbul, Turkey and is intimately familiar with the cultural history, but you can sort of see the inkling of that here in abstract occidental observational form. After the semi-oriental fougère tones and honeyed tobacco calm down, a bit of horse stable hay comes about, although not as barnyard as say Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur, so I wouldn’t call this animalic all that much. Patchouli and leather materials are really the anchors under the tobacco and hay, with vanilla rounding out things. Fumerie Turque is good, I’ll give it that. Performance is solid too, but this is not a screamer past the first two hours, as it sits a bit close. Unerringly a cold weather scent like most of the big hits from the house, Fumerie Turque also feels mostly masculine to my nose.

This scent was once relegated to the bell jars for a few years, seemingly after it stopped selling as well compared to the fresher, more floral things that followed up their dark and heavy late 90’s through mid-00’s period most superfans like to extol about until they’re blue in the face. I guess after some darker flavors returned to the brand like La Couche du Diable (2019) and Fils de Joie (2020), it seemed only right to return Fumerie Turque to normal rotation in one of the new super-thin and tall bottles used for new releases of a heavier nature like L’Innommable (2018). I can’t say a scent like Fumerie Turque doesn’t fit the bottle motif, but super-fans won’t be happy with anything but original bottles made in the old script-clad 50mls with the tan labels on them, where you had to remove the cap and add a sprayer if you preferred. For me personally, I don’t really see anything that is a prerequisite to knowing what you’re talking about in the world of online armchair perfume critics, at least not knowing what’s come out since this has, but I think it is still a solid niche tobacco scent for those with the money to spend on Lutens, which is quite a bit more than it was in 2003. Ever since the brand pulled out of the US, a bulk of the online throngs for the brand now have one extra hurdle to jump through if they still want this in their lives. Thumbs up

Gucci Guilty Oud by Gucci (2018)

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Gucci Guilty Oud by Gucci (2018) was a brief flash in the pan that was “officially unofficially” a combination of both Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme (2017) and Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Femme (2017) with a small dollop of synthetic oud on top, advertised as such by the brand itself for all of the one year it was sold on the market. Something tells me this wasn’t actually a sales disaster or some product that was aborted after a bout of creative remorse from former Gucci director Alesandro Michele; but rather the usual limited-edition oud fragrance meant to bait the usual Middle Eastern royal magnate market that Western brands tend to go after in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Oman, and the U.A.E. Thus, this unisex fragrance likely to be worn more by wealthy men in Middle Eastern urban centers than anyone else, takes the “best” parts of both Gucci Guilty Absolute varieties (but mostly from the Femme flavor ironically), then gives it all a light glaze of nagormotha and oud to feel palatable to the populace it was aimed at. Since this was intentionally limited and likely didn’t sell every available bottle made once the oil money elite had their take, the rest was dumped into the West via discounters, which is why nobody ever saw it in stores beyond maybe Bergdorf or Neiman’s, but every influencer online yacked about it. Thus, these flooded resellers at about $50 a pop, which was a steal, until the hype led all the “FragBros” to go hungry-hungry-hippos on the bottles, making prices rise.

Gucci Oud by Gucci (2014) and Gucci Intense Oud by Gucci (2016) were both delivered this way, in one-off batches that the Middle East got first-dibs on, then never heard from again beyond the brief window they lived rent-free in the brains of YouTube shills trying to hype the “oud craze” that had already mostly died in the West by 2010 anyway, moving up to niche and luxury markets only. What makes Gucci Guilty Oud different from them though is perfumer Alberto Morillas’ signature approach to oud, which had gotten its genesis in the original “oud craze” began by Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002), then co-opted by Tom Ford, and transformed into a scratchy monster with Tom Ford Oud Wood (2007), but continuously refined by Morillas with other releases for other houses thereafter. The type of oud accord present in Gucci Guilty Oud can trace its roots back to By Kilian Musk Oud (2013), then continuously toyed with under the Mizensir brand, before ending up here. The quick and dirty of this scent will reveal blackberry notes over a rich Bulgarian rose note, mixed with pink pepper and patchouli over some of the Gucci Guilty amber and leather from the Femme and Homme releases respectively. I don’t really get much of the leather either, and honestly think this may not suit guys used to more of a woody or medicinal oud structure found in the usual Western takes, as this veers more “oriental” in approach. Oud and nagarmotha are dosed very small and this is not particularly sour or fecal, but very long-lasting if you don’t blast yourself and go nose-blind from the also-present ambroxan.

At one time, this might have been a more-affordable alternative to the similar (but better) Parfums de Marly Akaster (2015), or Morillas’ own By Kilian Musk Oud from which this is mostly a derivation. There is no Gucci Guilty DNA here otherwise, so no orange blossom, no juniper berry, none of that from the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011) which seems all but forgotten now that Alesandro Michele has creatively rebooted the line yet again, after dropping the Absolute range and their companion Gucci Guilty Cologne by Gucci (2019) to rework the rosey Absolute pour Femme DNA into two new Gucci Guilty masculines in eau de parfum and parfum concentrations. The whole genderbend vibe of the house under his direction was encapsulated first here, then expanded to the unisex upmarket “The Alchemist’s Garden” range, which is a complete rip-off as the quality is no different than the standard ranges, with the Gucci Guilty Oud structure suspiciously appearing again in Voice of the Snake by Gucci (2019) from that range the following year. I guess someone decided people should pay $400 for this fragrance rather than the original $150 MSRP it had. If you can get this short-lived flanker for under $100, you’ll have yourself a good deal if you enjoy rose/patchouli/oud with a touch of fruity sweetness; otherwise, I’d say this is only for collectors. Fans of “serious” oud also need not apply here, as this reads mostly as a rose patchouli amber combo with just a hint of the star material. Thumbs up

Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens (1994)

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Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens (1994) is one of those mythic tastemaker niche perfumes that if you’re anybody who’s anyone of import, you’ll laud and possibly own. While I usually disagree with such gatekeeping nonsense, especially when “required curriculum” like this is so expensive and difficult to come by (more so since becoming a bell jar exclusive), I can understand Iris Silver Mist being a must-smell at least, since it is a virtual case study in iris raw materials. It’s rumored perfumer Maurice Roucel raided the coffers for every possible iris material available at the time, including naturals like real orris butter and absolutes, plus the usual synthetics like Orivone, Irival, and the like. Thus, every aspect of iris is revealed in Iris Silver Mist, making it probably the more-modern equivalent (as of 1994) to the revered Jacques Fath Iris Gris (1946), and as much of a holy grail to iris lovers as it. Seemingly Lutens knew this too, as Iris SIlver Mist has always been a bit tough to come by, made tougher now by being only in 75ml bell jars that are frequently out of stock.

Well, this is definitely all about iris, that much is correct. You get the rooty and waxy facets right away, carried aloft by a bit of green galbanum and ambroxan materials, back when the latter was still expensive and mostly out-of-reach by designers unless you were doing a then cutting-edge aquatic. The softer and more powdery facets then come in, with nuances of violet from the ionones, and the carrot aspects of orris coming about by the interplay with vetiver. Clove, white musk, labdanum, and various choice woody materials like cedar and santal are really just background players to base out the plethora of iris materials here. Near the very end, and I do mean near the end, a hay-like dry coumarin surfaces to give the iris a little gristle and grit, so not all is unearthly pretty as such a straightforward representation of the material may seem. Dare I say perhaps this scent may be a little “too iris” without enough embellishment? Iris Gris is known for its peach note, and other iris fragrances like Guerlain Shalimar (1925) or even Dior Homme (2005) have sweeter or softer things to contrast the iris, helping to stage it better. Performance is just okay.

So who is this for? Well, really I must say that Iris Silver Mist is for the Serge Lutens sycophants, of which there used to be quite a few between 2000 and about 2010 when this pioneering niche house went solo from Shiseido and Lutens left the world of makeup and photography for designer brands behind to be a creative director for his own brand. Since that peak, most of the fair-weather Lutens fans have moved on to a billion other fly-by-night niche brands offering a mere fraction of the creativity for much higher prices and prettier bottles with brass caps, and even some of them have an iris something or other too. Real dyed-in-the-wool Lutens fans (of which I am not actually one) were given a spear in the side Jesus-style if they lived in the US as the brand left that market a while back, making the already-rare Iris Silver Mist all that much more of an unobtanium unless you pay for importation. As a near-pure exercise in iris displaying its many facets simultaneously, I can admire and respect Iris SIlver Mist, especially as one of the finer works Maurice Roucel has wrought, although this isn’t something I’d wear. Thumbs up

Florabotanica by Balenciaga (2012)

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Florabotanica by Balenciaga (2012) doesn’t seem to be much liked in the online fragrance community; but then again, Balenciaga has long been shunned by the online collector’s space for discarding its legacy in perfume, one that was once counted among pillars of the designer space like Chanel, Patou, or DIor. In addition, the brand’s revolving-door ownership since Cristobal’s passing in the early 70’s has seen some of the most-coveted vintage men’s fragrance releases both come onto, then leave the market without so much as a warning, creating a “house of unicorns” much like anything Gucci released for men before 2011. This has the usual highfalutin’ tastemakers who each nabbed 37 bottles of every flavor each when they were all still $15 a pop on eBay talking tired soapbox nonsense about how perfume peaked with Balenciaga Ho Hang (1971) or Balenciaga pour Homme (1990), while everyone else grits their teeth at $500 eBay prices per bottle today and wonders why the house doesn’t grab money left on the table by re-issuing them or making something new. Hell, even the recent women’s selections made since Coty took over the license have seemingly entered the market, then exited just as fast, like Balenciaga is forever cursed to not keep any perfume around long enough for people to actually figure out it exists, let alone see if it’s any good. All this is before we even touch upon the scandals that plague the brand, causing people to write them off. Maybe you can nab one of the bottles of this so many people claimed to have trashed in protest, but I have a bit more dignity than to go dumpster diving for designer cast-offs. I set the bar pretty low as it is with my Avon obsession.

So about Florabotanica; yeah, it’s discontinued. You sort of expect that these days though, as if the brand pre-discontinues them coming out of the factory, or basically makes everything a limited edition without calling it one. For that reason, don’t get your knackers in a twist over this, although the collectors bitten by the FOMO virus won’t listen to me anyway, running out to buy this at any price because they just GOTTA HAVE IT to brag about on Instagram, calling it a masterpiece because they have one and you don’t. Ugh… so much hubris to sift through and we’re not even on the smell of the fragrance yet! Anyway, this was composed by Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Hérault, the son of Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge famous among “fragheads” as the original composer of DIor Homme (2005), coupled with the student of Pierre Bourdon who in more recent years has been revealed to be the perfumer behind Creed Aventus (2010), one of the online community’s biggest white whales in men’s scent. Yet, what we have here is a very by-the-numbers fresh green stemmy rose. The mint is a novel way to open rose and gives Florabotanica a bit more unisex appeal, Galbanum and cis 3 hexanol notes are evident, giving big green energy to the scent, alongside a vase water rose note, mixed with pencil shavings cedar, vetiver, ambroxan, and a touch of carnation. A bit modern, a bit 70’s in execution, but otherwise Florabotanica is pretty plain like a homely younger sister to Chanel Cristalle (1974). Performance is spectacular, but the singularity of the composition might grate the nerves if you’re not a lover of green rose with a slight bitchy side to it. Expect 12 hours easily, and guys might dig this too.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a plain green rose scent, as The Perfumer’s Workshop proved fifty years prior with Tea Rose by The Perfumer’s Workshop (1973), then Diptyque proved again a decade later with L’Ombre Dans L’Eau by Diptyque (1983). After that, green stemmy rose fragrances fell out of fashion in favor of big-boned rose patchouli or rose leather scents, until the demand for dainty or more photorealistic rose perfumes came ’round again with Cabaret de Grès by Parfums Grès (2002). Tack another decade onto that, and we’re here with Balenciaga playing things relatively safe with another high-fidelity rose garden in a bottle, dry and fresh, lucid and light, with a piercing strength in spite of itself. À la Rose by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2014) would come along two years later and really steal any thunder this scent might have had, switching out the stemmy green aromachemicals and mint for fruitier qualities that helped unleash a whole new generation of tart rose-fruit and candy-rose perfumes in the coming years (thanks Frank…). Meanwhile, Florabotanica hung out at counters unwanted and unloved except by those enthralled by its very Tim Burton-esque bottle, which I admit drew my eye as well. Folks either were mad or still are mad at Balenciaga anyway, so the perfume never stood a chance even if the brand wasn’t so cut-throat about constant reinvention; now it will be another overpriced vaunted bauble for the influencer set. The latest scandal involving children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear tacks on another ten more years of nobody wanting their perfume, so if you enjoy this simple pleasure, better do it quietly. Thumbs up

Estée by Estée Lauder (1968)

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Estée by Estée Lauder (1968) is the second fragrance for women created by the house, following Youth Dew by Estée Lauder (1953), and the third overall release following Aramis by Estée Lauder (1965), which was a men’s launch eventually moved to its own division. Also being the second fragrance created by Bernard Chant for the brand, his first women’s fragrance for Lauder, and the first fragrance marketed as a “super fragrance”, Estée is pretty special in many ways; although it was never as big of a statement maker compared to the previous perfume nor the things to come from the house, like Azurée by Estée Lauder (1969) the following year. I think a lot of this has to do with the way it was handled, the way Estée smells, and just a combination of little things that add up quickly to make a fragrance that decidedly doesn’t want to say anything about its wearer, just itself. Estée Lauder herself didn’t even consider this her signature fragrance until the 80’s, even though it bore her name, and famously just asked for a scent that captured the “light between two crystal chandeliers shimmering through a glass of champagne”, which speaks volumes of the thematic opposition this has to almost everything else in her early lines from the 1950’s to the late 1980’s. I like Estée and it is very much a classic exercise in chypre craft, being a lush bed of flowers and fruits over a soft and chewy bed of oakmoss, it just lacks the aggressive bite that her 70’s output in this same style would have.

Estée opens with coridander and jasmine with a massive blast of aldehydes, I mean enough aldehydes to make Coco Chanel herself take pause, and then some. This big aldehyde blast is responsible for the many complaint of Estée smelling of bug spray, especially if over-applied and especially if you’re using an older vintage of the “super cologne” before it became something else later on. The aldehydes really make this a fragrance for aldehyde lovers and they last hours into the dry down, unlike others where there is a puff then gone. However, the key players beyond these remain the coriander, soft floral jasmine followed by a nice full rose. Estée Lauder Knowing (1988) twenty years later would revisit this rose and make it stronger, with patchouli and some civet. while here it sits more quietly, surrounded by muguet, iris, and carnation for a much soapier feel, albeit not as soapy as the sharp savon of Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973), the scent Estée herself first claimed as a signature. I probably make it seem like many themes were pulled from Estée and later extrapolated into their own dedicated perfumes for Lauder, and knowing how Bernard Chant self-references in his work, I’m probably right. In any case, this soapy rose and carnation end up on a lovely ambery chypre base of oakmoss, orris, sandalwood, and musk from ylang-ylang. Assuming you survive the aldehydes, the payoff here is a nice rich and smooth floral chypre experience with the right balance of clean and dirty, although more the former than latter. Expect 10+ hours or more from most incarnations of this old girl, including the newest much-tamed version out there.

Lots of drugstore and other value-oriented brands like Revlon, Avon, and Elizabeth Arden would spend the better part of the next decade trying to strike the same level of sedate balance in their feminine-market work; so despite Estée’s inability to strike passers-by with its charm, it did seem to render the competition smitten, and sold very well. Coriandre by Jean Couturier (1973) is probably the more-risque version of this scent, although I wouldn’t say that makes it better. Avon would also try an oddly more animalic and pissy version of this with Avon Charisma (1970), then would go into a far soapier direction with Avon Unspoken (1975), that the brand labelled cheekily as an “ultra-cologne”. Revlon hit with Moon Drops (1970) while truth be told, Estée might have been a reaction to Climat by Lancôme (1967), released a year prior. There’s also a bit of confusion concerning the difference between “Estée” and “Estée Super” but the reality is they are actually the same if we’re talking about “super cologne/super fragrance” permutations of the Estée release dating from the 1960’s through until the product nomenclature switched to “Super Eau de Parfum” in more-recent bottles. It’s the “super perfume/pure fragrance spray” that’s actually a different animal from the standard Estée which got its start in a pineapple-shaped bottle, and itself was never known as “Estée Super” anyway. A great classic floral chypre of exquisite quality for all lovers of these vintage styles, but more of a demure kitten in the catalog once you get past the reverberating aldehyde roar. Thumbs up

Allure Homme Edition Blanche Eau de Parfum by Chanel (2014)

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Allure Homme Edition Blanche Eau de Parfum by Chanel (2014) is really just a slight upgrade to the original Allure Homme Edition Blanche Eau de Toilette Concentrée (2008) that it quietly replaced in the same way that Chanel pour Monsieur Eau de Parfum (2014) replaced Chanel pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée (1989). Both the original 2008 Allure Homme Edition Blanche and Allure Homme Sport Cologne (2007) were two halves of a coin minted in the wake of the limited-edition experiment that was Allure Homme Eau Fraîchissante pour l’Été by Chanel (2002), a lighter and fresher take on the original Allure Homme (1999) that itself allowed Chanel to see there was a need for flankers to the not-so-versatile OG, leading to Allure Homme Sport (2004) two years later. With Allure Homme Sport Cologne, there was an entirely unrelated DNA based on lemon and musk, while the original Edition Blanche merged the citrus tones of Allure Homme Eau Fraîchissante pour l’Été with a creamier sandalwood from the original Allure Homme to make a “lemon custard” bolstered by the tonka that would eventually make its way into Allure Homme Sport Eau Extrême (2012). All this Eau de Parfum take on Edition Blanche does is really just thicken and smooth the original so it has more relation to Eau Extrême than Allure proper, plus extends the creamy lemon beginning to ride longer into the dry down. Overall, this is the same beast as the old EdTC, so don’t go out of your way overpaying for surviving bottles of it if you’re not an obstinate collector needing the oldest version of everything because it’s always better. I mean yeah, there are going to be some make-or-break features to any edit of a scent, as we’ve seen with the Les Exclusifs EdT to EdP debacle for years.

For those who’ve not smelled any version of Edition Blanche, what you effectively get here is Chanel Allure Homme with a big lemon meringue twist in the opening, similar to Allure Homme Sport Cologne, but with the rest of the Allure Homme DNA following it up, rather than light white musks. Bits of the aquatic vibe from Allure Homme Sport and Sport Eau Extrême also make their way into this iteration of Allure Homme Edition Blanche, which may upset some fans of the EdTC; but I like all the iterations of Allure so for me this is a total non-issue. The dry down moves past the Chanel aldehydes and lemon into these fresh showery bits, with muted spice and a surprisingly subtle lavender fougère-like accord with sage. The trademark Polge sandalwood compound is supposedly bolstered with real Australian-sourced New Caledonian sandalwood oil, although I can’t say I really tell the difference if so. I typically associate naming of that sandalwood with the dry “pickle sandalwood” of Le Labo fame, and I’m not getting that here. Vetiver, tonka, creamy musks and vanilla round this out otherwise, bringing us into a more-subtle version of the Eau Extrême dry down with the finish, which I enjoy. Performance is long-lasting but like Eau Extrême, does not scream off skin beyond the first hour or two, so do not wear Edition Blanche as a clubber. What this replaces. if anything, is the need for the original Allure Homme in your collection, which lends its DNA in some fashion to most of the flankers; but on it’s own, Allure Homme is just this odd sparkly champagne-like semi-oriental thing that goes on effervescent initially, then becomes this overly-polished subtle aura that few seem to have a taste for unless revisiting that era of men’s fragrance.

On the other hand, Allure Homme Edition Blanche Eau de Parfum has the smoothness and the genteel nature of it’s 15-year-older pillar parent, but has inherited the more-assertive and dynamic qualities of all the various flankers that have come along all the way, feeling a bit like the final form of a Dragonball Z boss in some aspects; all the best things that made its competitors worthy absorbed into itself like Cell or Majin-Buu to create this monster of a perfect being that you have no snowball’s chance in Hell of defeating unless you find those dragon balls and make that wish (or do some crazy fusion-dance thing I guess). In other words, this ended up being many collector’s favorite Allure Homme flanker because it combines everything about the predecessors that they liked, while cutting out everything they didn’t; you get the citrus and creaminess, the rounded full-body finish, the contrast of freshness and woodiness, with enough vanilla and spice to keep it from being just another boringly dry “citrus and woods” exercise. This is the real jack-of-all-trades signature-worthy generalist Allure Homme scent that the original probably should have been, but wasn’t because Chanel via Jacques Polge was still in the mode of trying to make singular distinct statement fragrances like it was still 1985. Of course something like this was going to be made exclusive to boutiques and online-only, because nobody would buy the full suite of Allure Homme flankers for every mood and purpose if Edition Blanche Eau de Parfum was on every Macy’s counter, would they? The pesky $150+ price tag may also be a deterrence for some too, but this -is- Chanel after all, so these shenanigans are expected from them by now. Thumbs up

No. 1 de Chanel L’Eau Rouge by Chanel (2022)

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No. 1 de Chanel L’Eau Rouge by Chanel (2022) is Chanel’s attempt to do several things at once, something at which it partially succeeds. Firstly, this is an attempt at the modern “non-fragrance” that is gaining ground among trendy well-heeled late-gen Millennials and early-gen Zoomers, who have enough money and social status to want luxury, but want a functional spin laced in so they don’t feel guilty for the conspicuous consumption they’re undertaking just like their Gen-X or late-gen Boomer parents did. You know, because having a perfume that’s just a perfume to be smelled is wasteful, needless indulgence, and likely offensive to someone else’s personal safe space if they have to smell you in public, since we’re all about not having sensory stimuli we didn’t tick boxes or use keyword filters to permiss experiencing, like the media bombardments we vet online. Since perfumes don’t come with a content warning hashtag, it’s rude to wear them, never mind that $1,500 iPhone or the boutique-bred puffball dog they trot around in the mall, with everyone else having to avoid bumping into them or stepping on the dog because they walk face-in-phone. The second purpose of No. 1 de Chanel L’Eau Rouge is more cleverly-hidden in the naming of it, partially repurposing both the name of the apocryphal Swiss-made Mademoiselle Chanel No.1 by Chanel (1948), and the name of Le Rouge de Chanel (1931) into a single compound scent. Perhaps the apocryphal No. 2 and No. 3 are next? Who knows? Who cares? These kind of exercises are more or less to make folks uncomfortable with fragrance to be comfortable with it, by making it a part of a larger cosmetic ensemble. Sound familiar? Clarins also did stuff like this in the late 80’s as a reaction to a growing aversion to powerhouse fragrances.

The name “Mademoiselle Chanel” was already partially repurposed for the Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel (2001) release anyway, so it could be argued that I’m grasping at straws here, but whatever. The “non-fragrance fragrance” facets take the form of No. 1 being a scent layer meant to go over top of the related No. 1 de Chanel skincare and make-up range, which all have elements of this same scent. It’s a similar move as to what Coty did by tying in the scent of its make-up products with the preexisting L’Origan de Coty (1905) perfume, particularly with the famous Air-Spun face powder; the key difference here is this scent was made for the cosmetics and not the other way around. Despite its efforts to be extremely minimal, ephemeral, light but punchy in fits and starts, No. 1 de Chanel L’Eau Rouge does smell well put-together, although I wouldn’t expect any less from Olivier Polge at this point. Red camellia flower is the focus of the scent, but there is a lot of hibiscus and Chanel’s signature rose here too, plus the usual light jasmine, citrus, Chanel aldehyde puff, and some fruity “red berries” notes that seem to be finding their way into everything regardless of gender. A tiny touch of Chanel’s signature orris slides in with white musks to anchor this, preventing it from becoming too sweet, alongside a small touch of vetiver. No. 1 is fresh, fruity, rosy in places, and pretty forgettable beyond the impressive opening, which is all by design. Performance is surprisingly long for something made to be light, but what the scent reduces to after a few hours might as well just be the residual smell all of the various No. 1 cosmetics leave behind, which again might just be the point for such a “non-fragrance”. My guess is the idea behind using No. 1 is to eventually be using other more “serious” Chanel perfumes and make-up before long.

I guess stuff like this is a necessary step to keep the fragrance industry alive, doing for young women what these brands once had to do for young men a century ago, by hiding what is honestly just purposeless aesthetic behind a somewhat practical aim; all we’re doing here is dressing up an eau de toilette as a “revitalizing mist” rather than as an “after-shave” or “all-purpose lotion”, although the reasons why trendy well-to-do young women avoid all-out perfume is much different and arguably more conscientious than why stupid jar-necked guys avoided wearing scent a century back. We’re in an era where nobody wants to talk face to face, nobody feels comfortable calling without asking for permission via email or text first, where talking about a 20+ year-old movie to someone who hasn’t seen it is still a “spoiler”, and things like perfume, hi-fi stereo equipment (or even boomboxes) don’t sell well because nobody wants to put forth smell, sound or practically anything into anyone else’s spatial awareness without permission. So, we live our lives with our faces buried in our little private sensory stimulation tablets, thriving in virtual worlds and fearful to to co-exist in someone else’s real space because everyone’s sense of privacy is so over-heightened and inviolate that an accidental brush when moving past someone in line at the grocery is tantamount to assault. Convincing future generations that the public is a space better shared together with compromise and tolerance is not the purpose of this perfume of course, it’s just egging them into having a little more “devil may care” attitude about it doing like we did not even 20 years ago. Do I like No. 1 though? Not really, because it’s still a non-fragrance; just a pleasantly well-made one with a Chanel logo on it. Neutral