Category Archives: Uncategorized

Carrington by Charles of the Ritz (1985)


Carrington by Charles of the Ritz (1985) is a bizarre little historical blip in the fragrance market, and goes to show how much impact television once held on the public consciousness, arguably in the same way internet personalities do now. So the thing about this stuff, is it was originally sold as being from the House of Carrington, a fictitious cosmetics brand operated by the also-fictitious oligarch family of the same name from the popular prime-time soap “Dynasty”. Yeah you heard that right, this was a soap opera that aired at night.. oh the 80’s. My parents were infatuated with this show like most of middle-income white suburbia back then, but we never had these fragrances. Original retail price on the women’s perfume Forever Krystie by Charles of the Ritz (1984) was (when adjusted for inflation), about the same price per ounce as many of your top-shelf gulf brands like Spirit of Dubai; so we’re talking hundreds of dollars here for a scent from a -fake- celebrity made by a drugstore brand. I imagine most of that nonsense was just to get real celebrities to flex the stuff, because the real manufacturer (Charles of the Ritz) soon doled out an eau de toilette of it and this men’s fragrance at somewhere under $8 (which would be about $22.50 today), to be sold at every corner drug store that would carry it; and I remember seeing this at mine growing up, it just happened that my parents just never decided to bring these home.

The fragrances both were advertised by actors John Forsythe and Linda Evans, the stars who played the characters of Blake and Krystle Carrington respectively; so not only was this a real scent from a fake celebrity brand, but the real celebrities who played those fake ones on TV advertised it… oy vey! So in any case, don’t fret about missing out on this one, and do NOT pay the beyond-stupid prices this one carries (mostly as memorabilia for fans of the “Dynasty” show), as it was about on par with other Charles of the Ritz offerings of the time, the ones that weren’t licensed manufacturing of designer brands like their one-time ownership of YSL Beauté. Right alongside stuff like Enjoli by Charles of the Ritz (1978) or Aston by Charles of the Ritz (1979), Carrington was another made-for-the-mainstream offering that in this particular case, took on an ambery form of the old DNA already widely circulated in Brut by Fabergé (1964) by then. In essence, that means a powdery opening full of lavender, lemon, galbanum, sage, white floral notes, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and the usual sandalwood/tonka/oakmoss shenanigans of the barbershop fougère. The key twists here in Carrington aren’t enough to make me want to shell out the finder’s fee however, as a little bit of anise and a base-smoothing amber just aren’t enough to remove hundreds from my wallet. Performance is as you’d expect for an 80’s scent in the sillage portion, but unexpectedly close to skin after a while.

The appeal for this beyond fans of Dynasty, is precious little outside the usual “no price too high” collectors of-all-things-discontined and exalters-of-all-things-vintage, that gladly pound the “Book of Oakmoss” as they quote “Psalms of Prunastri”, giving sermons about how perfume is dead (long live perfume), and how the best days are behind us; so every future generation should spend their lives in mourning of what was lost before they ever came to be, rather than finding joy with what -they- have at hand. The sad state of being unable to grip one’s own mortality and the solipsistic nihilism that creates aside (not to mention the Pharoah-levels of burying oneself in “treasure”), the real truth behind realizing something like this exists (and that people actually hoard it) is ultimate proof of the “emperor’s new clothes” concept, even more than today’s redressing of vintage styles as haute luxury. At least when today’s Tom Ford or Roja Dove redress something once populist – or at very least fashionable in decades past – as an exclusive slice of today’s “good life”, they’re at least trying to say that things of the past should be valued by today’s cultural curators, they’re just re-wrapping it to be appealing for those curators, who are often into gluttonous nouveau-riche face culture. What Charles of the Ritz did here isn’t even that; it’s just a retread of a twenty-year-old fougère trope by a competing brand, given one of the most surreal facelifts in modern perfume history, and people bought it to feel one step closer to something they saw on TV but can’t have because it isn’t even something real, and never was. Wild man. Neutral

MCM Onyx by MCM (2023)

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MCM Onyx by MCM (2023) is the masculine fragrance I bet nobody expected, nor do most even want. I mean no disrespect to MCM, as I’m sure this house has survived it’s origins in the 70’s through to the 80’s, and 90’s by being a part of ever-changing European discotheque culture, in the same way manufactured German Disco artists Boney M did, by constant reinvention on the surface level while maintaining the core beat. Of course, this meant Boney M changing from vanilla instrumental disco to funk and Caribbean-flavored electronic dance music as the decades past. Producer Frank Farian traded them in for groups like La Bouche, Le Click, and the scandalous Milli Vanilli where he tried to repeat the same ghost performer format. Meanwhile, MCM eventually ran out of tricks too into the 90’s, and collapsed in a giant tax fraud scandal surrounding its founder, Michael Cromer. The house that originally stood for “Michael Cromer Munich” and eventually went through a few different acronyms like “Mode Creation München”, eventually landed on “Modern Creation Munich” before its demise in 1997 and subsequent resurrection by Korean investors a decade later in 2007. Like with Boney M’s failed career comeback in 2021, does anyone still care about this brand launching fragrances? The ones it had back in the 80’s when it started making them were all invariably early clubbers, big on orange flower or vanilla sweetness and heavy resins a la Lapidus or Joop, all discontinued for decades and only loved by vintage collectors. One smell of this eau-my-God de parfum, and your answer will be “no”.

So in 2021, MCM re-entered fragrance by releasing a new eponymous scent in a bottle shaped to resemble the brand’s signature cutesy backpacks, that all the rich club kids had back in the day, and today are worn mostly by fashion-oriented TikTok and Instagram users from Asia, as that’s now 70% of the brand’s market after being relaunched by SungJoo Group. It was inevitable I suppose with awards won for that bottle, and flankers like MCM Ultra by MCM (2022), that a male market iteration in a black version of that backpack bottle was issued. Plastered with the “Cognac Visetos” print that has adorned most MCM products since the 70’s, these bottles definitely rival the best (or worst) of what Paco Rabanne has bequeathed the designer market in recent decades. What about the smell though? Sadly, this is a case where all the cash was spent on the packaging, with whatever’s left going to the scent. Onyx was perfumed by Firmenich senior perfumer Clement Gavarry (son of Max Gavarry), and despite what he says in the official market copy, this is just an even thicker, more noxious take on the DNA of Dior Sauvage (2015). Shrill synthetic citrus notes merge with dryer sheet lavender and pink pepper, with ginger and a tad of violet leaf to tug this somewhat away from being a total clone of Sauvage, but with a much heavier-handed woody-amber base that uses clearwood (a mix of sequesterpenes and patchoulol) as the X-factor base note. So, a slightly thicker, greener, and more miasmic take on an already suffocating accord (at the amount most folks use it). No thanks. Performance asthma-inducing sillage, until you take a sandblaster to your skin.

You can’t safely dial up Sauvage to clubber levels, and that’s what it feels like Gavarry tried to do. Making the base thicker and greener with a harsher alcohol tone only makes that white noise in Sauvage even louder, plus all the extra pepper notes make the lavender in MCM Onyx feel like what’s in Fabuloso floor cleaner. It’s not a good look guys, and almost feels appropriate for the tacky bottle (I don’t care if it won awards). Stuff like MCM 24 Evening by MCM (1993) and MCM Black Sliver by MCM (1988) never really did it for me as is, and the coveted MCM Success by MCM (1986) was a sort of heavy-handed also-ran to Boss by Hugo Boss (1985) anyway, so the brand for me was already batting 1000 in the getting-me-excited department. So when I sprayed this, I felt like Ralph’s Club by Ralph Lauren (2021) was trying to have an evil Rosemary’s Baby demon seed child with a bottle Prada Luna Rossa Carbon (2017), in an attempt to overthrow Sauvage as the most “use your indoor voice please” fragrance on the planet; then my thoughts ran back to my testings of older MCM men’s market stuff after smelling Onyx and I was like yep, that’s definitely on brand for them. To look at it another way, this is the cynical evil brother to Dior Sauvage Elixir (2021), in that MCM wanted a fragrance just as strong and dense, but with absolutely none of the refinement. Considering MCM still somehow wants $110 US for just 75ml and pitches this as the first MCM men’s fragrance ever (retconning their entire back-catalog), and I’m just here laughing hysterically as I cry at how bad this smells. More like MCM Failure if you ask me. A dead brand that should have stayed dead. Thumbs down

Eau de Parfum Éclat by Brioni (2022)

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Eau de Parfum Éclat by Brioni (2022) didn’t get quite the same rollout that the original house-relaunch scent and it’s intense counterpart did, telling me this was more of an afterthought or contractual obligation than anything. Again we see Michael Almairac perfuming for this brand, so at least there’s an expectation of competency here, so that’s nice. Because nobody wanted to carry this, I had to go through Hell and back (no sweat for a devil like me) in order to get a sample for this review, but here we are a year after launch with me ready to spew up my brainworms just to opine for you what this is (to me). So, I guess the “blue” take on Dior Fahrenheit (1988) hasn’t done so well after all as a warm-weather or all-season option, and I’m guessing nobody saw that coming (sarcasm), so here we get a contextual “fresh” summer option to sit alongside the OG and it’s intense variant (the latter great for winter) in the form of Eau de Parfum Éclat. This time around, the attack vector seems to involve trying to add rose in place of the geranium found in Terre d’Hermès (2006) to an otherwise similar structure of citruses, spices, wood, and patchouli, all made modern and transparent. Eh, it works.

So the opening here is mildly stunning; and that may seem like a contradictory pair of descriptors until you smell it, get taken aback by the rose, then go “oh Terre d’Hermès” after a few minutes, so I do think it’s fit enough for print. Grapefruit is the big “this smells like Ellena” factor for seasoned enthusiasts, while the pink pepper replaces his usual predilection for harder-edged spices, mixed with a bit of synthetic incense materials that will send the hipsters packing. There isn’t a ton of scratchiness from whatever they’re using to replicate incense, so if you like stuff such as Acqua di Giò Profumo (2014), you won’t feel gobsmacked by woodyambers; but if any amount of this stuffgets your goat, then stay away. From there on out it is the usual transparent woods and musks that you have come to expect from modern freshes, and Eau de Parfum Éclat starts feeling a lot less like Terre d’Hermès, but a lot more like something such as L’Homme À la Rose by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2020). The rose and patchouli mixed with grapefruit are the big points of this scent, and being priced comparable to the Hermès rather than the MFK, may offer some value for deal-seakers.

Performance as an eau de parfum is a little above adequate, and I think you’ll be able to detect Eau de Parfum Éclat for some time. If you’re someone that loves these kinds of citrus and woods exercises, and wonders what a bit of ambroxan and rose in place of the usual denser fare can do to a profile like this, then Eau de Parfum Éclat may be worth exploring. If you’re someone that already has enough things like this from other houses that do them, such as Cartier, Montale, and countless others in that no-man’s land between standard designers and luxury fare, you may want to skip by Eau de Parfum Éclat. This last fact may be why the brand hasn’t really pushed sales of this fragrance, as it really does feel like its plugging a hole in the line-up rather than being something worth showcasing or pumping real ad money into. Hell, even the usual YouTube clown show doesn’t seem to be making much fuss about it, meaning Lalique Group skipped out on sending them freebies to promote. Do I like it? Sure. I already have the discontinued Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche (2014) which is spiritually-identical, so I don’t need it; but fans of that who missed out can switch to buying this Brioni instead. Thumbs up

Signature Royale by Zaharoff (2020)

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Signature Royale by Zaharoff (2020) is a flanker to the original Signature pour Homme by Zaharoff (2018), and according to some, closer to the original Zaharoff pour Homme (1998), although I can’t confirm that. What I can confirm is this limited-edition fragrance does smell a bit more like a mod of the original Signature pour Homme that George decided to go ahead and spool up for limited production as a flanker, than something created from the ground up by perfumer Claude Dir for the purpose. As such, expect this to smell very close to the original Signature pour Homme, to the point where some may decide to just skip it altogether for redundancy’s sake. Is this truly redundant next to the OG? Maybe? That depends on how much you like subtle variations on a theme meant to be alternatives to one another contextually, something Jeremy Fragrance tried (and failed) to do with his Fragrance One range. Here we see a more semi-oriental side to the Signature pour Homme DNA, so the soapy notes and blue stuff stays on the bench.

The opening is a bit powdery with iris ionones coming to the fore, although this opening is the most Signature Royale will ever smell like something such as Dior Homme by Christian Dior (2005), so do not get your hopes up for that. Afterwards, we get a tart apple and juniper, with some aldehyde sparkle sneaking in behind the apple. Cardamom will play a bigger role in the later stages of the drydown, although for the moment this scent is all about the lavender and odd choice of tagetes in the heart, giving Royale a bit more yellow floral oomph to join those aldehydes in the top, threatening to feel a bit like a classic women’s chypre if not for that lavender, the juniper, and so on. The synth-oudy base of the original returns, this time joined by a thicker, fluffier musk choice of cashmeran and old-school musk-K, whether that’s really what’s here or not. The rest of it is the “semi-oriental” part with vanilla, amber, patchouli, and sandalwood. Zaharoff’s take on the 90’s semi-oriental fougère is this, sitting somewhere between Lalique pour Homme (1997) and Jazz Prestige by Yves Saint Laurent (1993).

All this 90’s semi-oriental mature man formal goodness, but compressed and sandwiched between two slices of bread top and bottom comprised of elements prominently featured in the original chimera blue barbershop fougère that is Zaharoff Signature pour Homme. If that seems too redundant for you, or if you’d rather hang out with the likes of Cartier, Chanel, or Guerlain and their period takes on the subject, it’ll probably be cheaper per ounce anyway unless you’re paying retail or buying vintage specimens of each. As for me, I like this stuff but it doesn’t resonate with me the same way the original one does, so I’d probably not add it to my collection unless it fell in my lap. That doesn’t however, stop me from recommending this stuff to people who like the Zaharoff brand, and if you buy one of his 3 or 4 bottle package deals he has directly on his website, you can have this as part of the complete set anyway, which is probably the best way to buy it, if I’m to be honest. A decent offering, but I wish it came out from behind the shadow of big brother a little more. Thumbs up

Exit the King by Etat Libre d’Orange (2020)


Exit the King by Etat Libre d’Orange (2020) has a narrative that may not sit well with people who see systems of power as a necessary part of an orderly world, including the most obvious one this scent seeks to decry by it’s marketing; but on the same taken, I don’t think this marketing really has much to do with what perfumers Ralph Schwieger and Cecile Matton has presented us. Whether you support or are against concepts of monarchy, autocratic rule, social class structures, male supremacy, and so forth, what you have here with Exit the King is a classic rose chypre done with modern material replacements as needed by standards of availability and regulation of the current day; so in the end, there really isn’t true freedom at all with this fragrance, like advertised. Once you move past this irony, what’s here is pretty good, assuming you’re in the game for classic styles done with modern approaches. If you pull a Larry David and curb your enthusiasm, you might be rewarded here in Exit the King. I’d have liked it better if it was inspired more after the 1962 UK stage drama of the same name, as that Exit the King was an absurdist piece that feels more in line with what Etat Libre d’Orange usually does with their fragrance naming or market copy, plus would have sent people unaware of the “Berenger Cycle” down a nice rabbit hole.

The opening is very clearly a soapy rose and jasmine with pink pepper and a touch of aldehydes, not unlike many classic femme-market rose chypres released in the 1980’s, things that today are also sometimes worn by adventurous men. If you’re not one of them, you may want to avoid this scent as things don’t necessarily get more masculine from here, and the unisex designation of the scent by ELDO isn’t by way of the fragrance composition itself a la Calvin Klein cK One (1994), so this might just read to you as a niche version of something you’d rather smell on a woman if that’s how you feel. For those game to try something like this, you’ll be rewarded with a bit more familiarity into the base, as a slightly more-masculine (but not quite) patchouli and musk accord shows up, reminding me a lot of Lapidus pour Homme (1987), something that was always a gay club favorite anyway; make of that what you will. Sandalwood and oakmoss are represented chemically, so don’t get too excited there either. Still, the fragrance on its own is nice if you like slightly soapy and musky rose chypres, although merging a period-correct men’s clubber with the classic chypre structure in place of the usual animalic leather notes found in examples from the period is a curious decision for a scent that seeks to show what life could be like without chauvinism, if I’m being honest.

I guess that’s the real danger when you politicize something superfluous like scent: You either hit it directly on the head with something like the cult This Smells Like My Vagina by Goop (2020) and make all your sales from people trying to use their fragrance to make a political statement, or you deliver an apolitical-smelling conventional scent like Exit the King that says absolutely nothing but “I smell nice” when it’s caught in the air, making everyone feel awkward when you volunteer what the fragrance represents after they compliment you on it, not knowing there was a deeper meaning to your musky roses in the first place. At least wearing something like the fragrance by Goop will let people know you’re making a statement however performative) and not trying to smell nice, although that ‘s not a reason why I wear perfume, personally. Ultimately, I find Exit the King to be a perfectly good if the dirty birdy is what kept you away from classic big-boned femme-market rose chypres in the first place, although many old-timers will smell this and immediately find the laundry musk profile off-putting, unless they fancy a bottle of The Baron by Evyan/LTL (1961/1965) where that sort of thing was still novel. My best hope is this stirs up interest in classic styles from younger people who smell it, since modern niche is feeling a bit too much like designer these days, especially with all the cloning. Neutral

Signature pour Homme by Zaharoff (2018)

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Signature pour Homme by Zaharoff (2018) is a fairly impressive effort in men’s fragrance from George Zaharoff, a self-styled men’s fashion impresario from the US who has never really gone global with his brand like Tom Ford or Calvin Klein, but has nonetheless garnered a cult of loyal customers. Following in the footsteps of his mother Mariana Zaharoff, one-time tailor to the stars who made many one-off couture pieces under the “MZ Zaharoff” label, George Zaharoff keeps his creations a little more numerous than one-of-one, but still relatively low-volume. He initially sold only out of Nordstrom, then his own Chicago boutique (taking over the Marilyn Miglin space there in 2012), until the COVID-19 pandemic killed off his only self-branded physical retail footprint in the States, going back to Nordstrom and a few licensed resellers globally. His fragrances have had roller-coaster fortunes as well, since Signature pour Homme is a reconstruction and modification of his original fragrance, Zaharoff pour Homme (1999), itself lasting only two years on the market initially. Brought back once in 2008, then gone again when fortunes once again turned southward, the original Claud Dir formula of Zaharoff pour Homme was allegedly created to replace Escada pour Homme (1993), but was lost by the perfumer, giving opportunity to use chromatography to analyze (then alter the formula) of surviving bottles George possessed. From this exercise, we get Signature pour Homme.

So the thing about this fragrance is, it smells like a lot of different things to a lot of different people, because love it or hate it, Signature pour Homme is a complex multi-headed chimera born of an alteration to formula based on a GCMS scan of a lost fragrance meant to emulate the original vintage formula of another lost fragrance. Confused yet? So here we have soapy and creamy late 80’s/early 90’s semi-oriental fougère grafted onto a base of modern leather and synthetic oud nuances, with “blue fragrance” top and heart notes dispersed throughout, yielding a scent that smells fresh and modern in fits and starts, but also traditionally masculine, before finally settling on slightly-smoky aromatics with incense under it all. As an intended signature fragrance from someone who seems to have a refined palate and the money to commission people like Claude Dir to make their fragrances, Signature pour Homme is indeed sophisticated, unerringly masculine, versatile, and feels right at home in most situations or seasons. This is said to be a wet-shaver’s favorite, no doubt because Zaharoff has on-again-off-again sold wet shaving accessories scented like this stuff too, and it doesn’t seem out of place alongside things like Azzaro pour Homme (1978) and Rive Gauche pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent (2003). Performance is pretty good and will last the day, and the stuff sticks to a shirt collar virtually forever, so I think you get your money’s worth in that regard despite the fairly high price per ounce for the fragrance; you won’t find discounts due to the ultra-tight distribution either.

On the down side, the usual alpha-male douche-bros that confuse their bank account and dead-lift amounts with having a personality have flocked to this fragrance, like they basically do anything promising the smell of success and superiority to the “beta cucks” they imagine shoving into high school gym lockers or giving hanging wedgies to as if they stopped mentally maturing at 16; so you have to waft through an inordinate amount of shallow self-centered garbage to get any real honest opinions on this one from other people, particularly if YouTube and Facebook are your preferred haunts. Additionally, people owning things like Maison Francis Kurkdjian masculin Pluriel (2014) may find something like Signature pour Homme a bit redundant, as it goes in a similar lavender over leathery-incense and clean patchouli vibe. Most folks I know only want one high-priced blazer-and-tie kind of scent like this, and although the price-per-milliliter is in favor of the Zaharoff over the MFK, the shaky limited distribution is not. Some folks might not want to be worried about replacing their Zaharoff Signature pour Homme in the same way George was forced to replace his Escada. That said, this is a solid, eminently-wearable effort; and although I find George’s courting of influencers and the “cool kids club” spectacle it creates to be embarrassing, I can’t in good conscience say he doesn’t know what he’s doing where the creative direction on his main line is concerned. Get a sample before blind-buying at these prices, but otherwise be optimistic about this one. Thumbs up

Fougères Marines by Montale (2007)

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Fougères Marines by Montale (2007) is one helluva sure-fire way to get the Boomers and early Gen-X’ers up in arms, as evidenced by the disparity in written reviews between Basenotes, Fragrantica, and social media at large, plus the various videos on YouTube posted about the stuff. You can almost tell who was at least over 40 when this stuff dropped in 2007 (likely pushing 60 by the 2023 date-stamp of this review) by way of their knee-jerk reaction to Fougères Marines when it landed in what was up to that point a flawless catalog for Montale. After pumping out so many consecutive odes to traditional Arabian perfumery, in addition to the occasional stylistic lark a la Montale Black Aoud (2006), nobody was prepared for the brand to tackle a staple of masculine-market Western perfumery circa the 1990’s. This particularly stung Boomers and X’ers hard because many associate the prime of their lives with the scents of their generation and have a particular loathing for the “changing of the guard” in the early 1990’s through to the early 2000’s, marked by more-androgynous and abstract ozonic-fresh “eau de toilettes” replacing their burly, naturalistic, and musky “men’s colognes” focused more on tobacco, petrichor, animalics, and leather. Imagine moving up into the niche spaces to leave that losing battle behind, only to discover the calone-1951 monsters that haunted your olfactive nightmares had infiltrated that sacred realm too. Was there nowhere left safe from the aromachemical ghosts of Pierre Bourdon and Alberto Morillas? Probably not by 2007.

So what Fougères Marines does, which is such a trespass for some, or tremendous boon for others (depending on age of person being questioned it seems), is bring that early-mid 90’s style of what was then contemporary men’s fragrance home to roost in a Middle Eastern context. As is the point of Montale all along (much like the higher-end Amouage), Fougères Marines brings the West-meets-East values of Western perfumery techniques with Arabian style. Previously this manifested as something ostensibly Arabian in theme, like ambery ouds and dense floral-musks done in an oily format cut with alcohol Western-style; but with Fougères Marines we see Pierre Montale and his uncredited perfume lab staff reach back to stuff like Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger (1994), or Calvin Klein Escape for Men (1993), and give it a Persian Gulf shot in the arm. The end result is a denser, heavier take on that shimmery tart-sweet melon mix, no doubt to survive desert heat, smelling the most like the aforementioned Tommy coming out of the sprayer and living in those top notes for a lot longer than Tommy itself actually does; this making some look at Fougères Marines as the vintage version of that scent on steroids, even if they’re only half-remembering how Tommy smells. The rest of Fougères Marines is much saltier thanks to the Middle Eastern penchant for that type of ambergris treatment, with sparkling geranium, and camphoraceous patchouli playing a big role. While not natural, Fougères Marines is definitely more natural-smelling than Tommy ever was, regardless of vintage. Still, you have to at least be a lover of 90’s-era Creeds to really dig Fougères Marines.

There’s also a lot more complexity and roundness in the dry down of Fougères Marines than literally anything from the 90’s of this particular type, so every Millennial looking a “niche version” of their favorite high-school or college scent of the 90’s and early 00’s might find some comfort in Fougères Marines, while everyone else not waging a personal culture war against generational shifts in style – but also not particularly enamored with aquatics or ozonics in the first place – will find Fougères Marines perhaps too boring or too familiar to be worthy of its niche price tag, no matter the potential upgrade in perceived quality. Therein really lies the dilemma when niche brands “punch down” and co-opt styles once belonging to the Hoi Polloi, even if it’s the Hoi Polloi of other cultures in the case of Montale copying formerly-ubiquitous American brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, particularly when those styles aren’t so old yet that they haven’t been removed from collective memory. I like Fougères Marines, even if I don’t really find a bit of fougère in it at all, let alone much marine either, and it was a sign of things to come with fragrances like Montale Red Vetiver (2008) and Montale Sandflowers (2009), which go more-directly Western in appeal; perhaps all this being a precursor to the launch of the more intently-Western sister brand Mancera. Whether or not you consider this “niche Tommy”, you’ll either love it or hate it all the same depending on how you feel about things like calone-1951, ambroxan, and the usual salted-melon and shrill freshness of the 20th Century’s final years. I don’t feel ripped off by my purchase of Fougères Marines, but it isn’t a top recommendation from the house. Thumbs up

Astoria by Clandestine Laboratories (2023)

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Astoria by Clandestine Laboratories (2023) is a fragrance that Mark Sage has made privately for his girlfriend, based on a shared experience they had. As the name suggests, this experience took place in Astoria, Queens instead of the usual haunt of The Bronx, and involves roses with a sprig of mint. I’ll leave the rest of the story to the market copy supplied on the Clandestine Laboratories website; but what we more ore less get here is CL spin on a classic rose chypre, complete with an animalic base note of civet, not unlike Clinique Aromatics Elixir (1971) or Aramis 900 (1973), just made decidedly less traditionally-French since Mr. Sage works in a vacuum away from the influence commercial fragrance. The big twist here is the freshness of mint contrasting with the animalic rose chypre elements, plus drier woodier facets near the end of the drydown, making this perhaps more wearable than historical examples of the same ilk.

The opening indeed goes on fresh and green, with mint, lime, and tea rose over immortelle, offering up a bright floral-aromatic dry rose experience that eventually gives way to slightly-sweeter honeysuckle and pear nuances before launching into that funky civet mixed with green tea. The civet here unfettered and hangs its hindquarters out a bit, so be prepared if you’re not used to that in a modern fragrance, although the woody cedar slightly-smoky birch elements tame it pretty quick letting the rose take the stage later in the wear over the woody dry-spiced base where cardamom tags out the mint to ride the scent on home. There’s a lot of tug-of-war going on here, but Astoria eventually decides it wants to be a green and mostly-clean rose fragrance with only the occasional lick of animalic musk coming to tease your nose, perhaps aided by residual honey notes. Performance is good, although this isn’t a screamer projection-wise.

This won’t be everyone’s cuppa, and it is marketed by the perfumer as female-intended; although if I know anything about fragrance enthusiasts in the online space, it’s that they all love a nice green rose chypre fragrance, especially if there’s a pinch of both naughty and nice in it, rendering gender irrelevant. I’ll leave that last bit up to you if Astoria feels more butch or femme, although to my nose it barrels directly down the middle to feel unisex. There are definitely greener things in the Clandestine Laboratories stable, although nothing I’ve smelled released thus far with such a direct and focused rose accord, so anyone wanting to know how Mark Sage handles rose as a subject now finally has their answer, and I’m not personally disappointed at all. In fact, I’d wear this in the same ways I’d wear the aforementioned Aramis 900, since the green herbal rose and musk elements here serve the same spring-like context in my mind as Aramis 900 does, although with a quirkier NYC-based flavor Thumbs up

Pool Boy by Clandestine Laboratories (2022)

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Pool Boy by Clandestine Laboratories (2022) solves for X in regards to making a fresh fruity fragrance without ozonic or aquatic fallbacks, which are the X. Furthermore, the fragrance also gives a drier, darker, more aromatic feel to the base, which is something not common with fragrances loaded down in the opening with fruity materials, further helping distance this scent away from anything it might otherwise be compared to, even disparagingly. That said, I still find Pool Boy to be “of a certain mind” like Tilia by Clandestine Laboratories (2021), in that it wouldn’t feel out of place being sniffed in the air off someone’s collar when perusing a neon-lit shopping mall in the 1990’s. Scooting between Babbage’s and Waldenbooks is out hypothetical wearer of Pool Boy, before hitting up the food court for some Sbarro pizza and an Orange Julius. He could be also planning to hit up the local municipal pool after the mall (back when we had those and giving a name tie-in), all while cranking the Ace of Base on his portable disc player.

The opening of Pool Boy is sweet and fun, clearly the most 90’s part of the scent, with noticeable guava and passion fruit notes that remain throughout. Hyssop is a really old herbal material derived from a flower in the mint family, used in ancient times for medicinal cures, and here helps “bitter up” the fruity notes next to some lavender and a rather rooty orris, almost lentiscus-like with its earthen qualities. The note pyramid claims an iced tea note, and I guess if I were to squint hard enough, I could see it in my mind’s eye; but my focus remains on the evident fruit notes, which trail down with the herbal facets into the base of vetiver, tobacco, and treemoss. Here is where Pool Boy takes a turn into 90’s fougère territory, reminding me a bit of Pleasures for Men by Estée Lauder (1997) in the approach. Pool Boy continues to darken up however, with some dry leathery animalic musk properties and cedarwood that almost makes you think that your fragrance has been switched from what you sprayed on, if not for the remaining guava and passion fruit nuances. Performance is tenacious, although Pool Boy wears light.

This stuff could be unisex despite the name, even if I think more guys would like it than ladies, since Tilia carries a similar theme but is keyed more for the conventional taste among feminine perfume wearers anyway. Dixie Wetsworth of Cabana Chat (Mad TV) may or may not be proud of this particular Pool Boy, although I certainly enjoy it. The composition itself not only has a bit of an unorthodox combination going on that proves the inventiveness of perfumer Mark Sage; but most importantly, Pool Boy still manages to keep itself on-track with the added bonus of feeling nostalgic for the 90’s to boot. If you had told me Pool Boy and Tilia were originally meant for an aborted his/hers perfume range from an avant-garde designer house in the 90’s, I’d believe you. Nothing else in the Clandestine Laboratories range really smells like this, except Belem by Clandestine Laboratories (2021) in very tangential ways, mostly in the use of herbal notes. Another unique entry for this independent brand, bound to not be everyone’s cuppa, although well-done nonetheless. Thumbs up

Spring Flower by Creed (1996)

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Spring Flower by Creed (1996) is really nothing special, so the fact that it is one of the more-popular feminine-market fragrances from the overly-priced super-luxe perfume house seems a bit of a surprise. Then again, the brand is so focused on male millionaire executive-tier career sociopaths that is also surprising they both making women’s fragrances at all, since Creed is all about “captains of industry” et al. I guess the token arm candy that’s better seen and not heard, plus only good until her personal assets start to depreciate, needs to have options at the Creed boutique too, so the soulless ghoul whose bank account is the only real reason she puts up with the abuse can feel magnanimous buying her something too. After getting that disgustingly vapid imagery of Western society’s “elite” out of your head, what you have left here with Spring Flower is a scent that feels more made for our hypothetical escort’s mother (or grandmother) than made for her; but transposed onto what was a modern-for-the-time 90’s fruity floral frame.

Part of this can be explained by the fiction of the scent being commissioned by Audrey Hepburn in the 80’s and not released until three years after her death in 1996. Reading between the lines here, and what this tells me is that we have what is likely a mod for an older scent worked on by one of the perfumers Olivier Creed used to grift out of their formulas, possibly Pierre Bourdon, or at least someone at Quest or Takasago, which were Creed’s favorite hunting grounds for practically-free formulas to release under his own name. The opening is very 60’s dainty pink dresses and bows-in-hair with the floral arrangement, meaning powdery-meets-fleshy rose, tuberose, and jasmine set behind carnation and ylang. The osmanthus and lactonic peach notes add fruity nuances while zippy opening synthetics convey apple and bright aldehyde-citrus combinations. The base is the most-modern part of this, with ambroxan and sheer white musks, one of which is galaxolide. Very much I get an older unused floral perfume with a base-retrofit, like an old starship given a new letter designation to show refitment. Performance is okay.

Overall, this is a bit of an uncomfortable combination which is nothing if not unique, and one of the reasons I guess to spend over $400 for just 75ml of juice as of 2023 if you’re going to buy this nowadays. Spring Flower is not the absolute worst Creed feminine-market scent, but is pretty bad in that its only real point of distinction is to smell like a 1960’s Avon fragrance had a bender with something cranked out by Bath & Body Works in the late 90’s when it first saw release. Older batches before the bottles switched to match the male-market ones will have a noticeably higher quotient of patchouli, making them feel greener and slightly fuller, more chypre-like, although the newest powder-pink bottles that mimic the look of 75ml men’s bottles seem to not have this additional depth anymore, since we all know the “batch variations” are due to crop yield disparities year-to-year right? Right??? There are some good things to come out of Creed’s neglected women’s catalog, which itself seems to exist only in a token capacity as I alluded to above, but Spring Flower is certainly not one of them. Thumbs down