Category Archives: Uncategorized

Intimus by Navitus Parfums (2019)

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This is one of those fragrances where I hate the opening but love the late dry down, making me happy I keep stuff around rather than scrubbing at the first sign of displeasure. Intimus by Navitus Parfums (2019) is part of the launch collection curated by Steven from Redolessence, a popular YouTube reviewer-cum-influencer who typically has little to say negatively about most fragrance he discusses, and instead tries to just objectively break down everything. There’s a bit of merit in that, but it lends no insight into what he truly enjoys in a fragrance, so seeing these Navitus Parfums scents at least gives us a bit of an answer, even if creativity is capped somewhat by the evident “built for cost” nature of the line (in spite of the price tag). With Intimus, we have a bit of a mixed bag categorically, but this is generally a sweet fragrance.

The opening is very much like a Jean-Paul Gaultier Ultra Mâle (2015) or adjacent style, which is an instant groan for me, hence resisting the temptation to scrub. The bubblegum ethyl maltol sweetness and fruit accords mixed with pink pepper overload me fast, but after about ten minutes, something more enjoyable emerges with sort of gourmand semi-oriental fougère hybrid, seeing muguet and geranium mix with some candied amber and vanilla in the heart. The base is where things get really interesting, as a (rectified) oakmoss sets up with patchouli and for once in the entire line thus far a woody cedar note that actually smells like wood. This strange mature turn near the end pulls its own ass out of the fire for sure, remaining mildly sweet but cozy and aromatic for the day-long duration. Sillage closes in after 30 minutes, which is also when that hellish opening dies. Best use is fall through spring, in casual settings.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that $130+ for 50ml of extrait is still a poor deal when perceived materials quality and blending is this poor, effectively being barely above the modern designer standard. Considering designer parfum concentrations are about the same price for double the juice, Navitus is only for the Redolessence fans looking to support their hero (by way of a SPIFF or commission I’m sure), because you can do way better for the money. That said, I like the smell Intimus ultimately comes but am not particularly happy about the journey there, so I wouldn’t get this at any price but can see some using “ends justify the means” logic and dealing with it. Christian Carbonnel was allowed to play with fire here and for that I give props from an artistic perspective, but feel indifferent about wearing an overpriced modern clubber with middling quality and 80’s fougère underpinnings. Neutral.

Oud Imperium by Navitus Parfums (2019)

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Oud Imperium by Navitus Parfums (2019) is one of two obvious ouds launching the brand and part of the inaugural collection curated by Steven of Redolessence (in the Roja Dove Parfum Cologne knock-off bottles). I like this one marginally better than Oud Luxuria (2019), which feels like a drugstore interpretation of a rose oud with over-amped sillage by way of a really harsh woody amber incense note, that literally borks the whole composition into being unwearable. Oud Imperium avoids that route but in so doing doesn’t really smell like an oud either, using a combination of florals, tonka, and clean laundry musks that make me go “where’s the oud?” in the same way the old lady in the Wendy’s commercial asked “where’s the beef?” back in the 80’s. I’m going to say that with oud not really being in the “bigger picture” of this scent, I think the name does it a disservice, especially to oud fans, but that’s just me being fussy I guess. Oud Imperium isn’t terrible but also feels like it wants to be 3 different scents all at once.

The opening of Oud Imperium gives us a strange combination of lavender and medicinal oud, which reminds me a tad of Initio Oud for Greatness (2018), but without the rounded synthetic cashmeran saffron note of that scent. Instead, we move into white florals in the heart like muguet, jasmine, and linden blossom. The medicinal synth oud note is very reminiscent of Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002) or even Roja Dove Creation-E Parfum Cologne (2019) with a similar Dr. Pepper vibe, eventually fading into a tobacco-like floral tonka structure surrounded by white musks and cypriol to give a sort of pillow clean but slightly chypre nature. The woody amber molecule here is toned down and Oud Imperium remains mostly soft, round, with hints of woodiness and musk. Was Christian Carbonnel really on deck for this? Oud Imperium feels pretty confused. Wear time at extrait strength is all day but sillage falls out faster than with most of these Navitus dealie-o’s, poofing into a skin scent in under an hour. Best use is romantic evening wear and for me, this reads more feminine than masculine, for what that’s worth.

I’ve smelled many an oud fragrance that isn’t really, from a host of Amouroud scents that ended up being Tom Ford Black Orchid (2006) b-sides to Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2015) clones, and even rose patchouli combos with only the faintest trace of oud like Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012), but what makes or breaks an oud that isn’t oud is what it offers up once you come to terms with the fallacy itself. In the case of Oud Imperium, this is a floral tobacco musk with arbitrary woody amber and trace synthetic oud elements there just to make it heavy, feeling like it could have been sold in any number of fancy decorative bottles from brands such as Asgharali or Armaf, and sold for $40 under some name like “Glorious Night” or something at a mall. Instead, it’s an extrait sold for $130+ at 50ml and endorsed by a YouTuber with some clout in the online community. I like Steven, but pretty ambivalent about this scent, as it feels pretty shoe-horned into the line compared to some others. Neutral.

Lautus by Navitus Parfums (2020)

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Lautus by Navitus Parfums (2020) is from the second series under the creative direction of Steven from Redolessence, but sees the usual perfumer of Christian Carbonnel switched out for longtime niche perfume hero Bertrand Duchaufour, which promises to make things a bit more classical in nature. Surely enough, Lautus feels far more French than many of the previous Navitus fragrances, and doesn’t try to stuff oud, incense, or amber into weird places like some of the original 2019 line. Lautus feels dry and semi chypre-like, and is the traditionally aromatic one from the line, also swinging slightly more masculine for that reason, and is likeable enough to fans of vintage styles reworked as upper-ten luxury niche experiences. I’m not keen on the $130+ price for 50ml, because ultimately this just feels like “designer +” to my nose, but you could do worse.

The opening is going to have a bunch of sharp and floral citrus notes, citing lavender, neroli, yuzu, and lemon verbena. The lift-off from this is impressive, but a touch artificial. I hate re-using “built for cost” so much when reviewing modern fragrances regardless of price point because it feels like a cop-out, but that’s what it is. Juniper in the heart with hedione and other nondescript florals move this further along until the slightly camphoraceous patchouli finds home in the base. Here we see ambroxan, Iso E Super, and cashmeran mingle with the patchouli, giving me huge “Nü” Dior Homme (2020) vibes, but with a more-complex aromatic floral interplay on top. This isn’t an exact analogy and Lautus is the far better “nü-chypre” scent, they just have similar base DNA that makes the late dry down near indistinguishable, which is a bit of a bummer. Wear time is all day and sillage peters out after a few hours due to the extrait format. Recommended use is fall through spring for formal occasions.

Lautus by Navitus Parfums is a good scent if gotten at a good price for people into revisionist traditional perfume and aren’t picky on materials. The extrait concentration means one bottle will last ages in larger collections, which may mitigate the price some, and I see this line as mostly for wealthy or intense-hobby collectors already with large collections anyhow, or the kind of people who follow Steven’s channel. Beyond my price nitpicks and the bottle design looking too much like a store brand Roja Parfum Cologne, there isn’t much else to dock points off of besides the fact that Lautus doesn’t feel exciting. This is relatively safe and reverent yet left-of-center niche perfumery with dubious ingredients quality the likes of which niche fans have known for years by now, and had Duchaufour made this for L’Artisan Parfumeur say 15 years ago, it might have been a head turner like Timbuktu (2004). A solid if slightly unremarkable release from Navitus. Thumbs up.

Opulentas by Navitus Parfums (2020)

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Okay, so this is a weird one. Opulentas by Navitus Parfums (2020) is part of a second series using the fake Roja Dove bottle designs, and thus part of the portfolio controlled by Steven from YouTube Channel Redolessence, and delivers a “designer plus” luxury perfume experience akin to Parfums de Marly, with mixed results. Price is about $140 for 50ml of extrait, and some of these become woefully synthetic and harsh in the base, while others maintain some poise throughout. Luckily, Opulentas shows a bit of the latter and is enjoyable from start to finish. What makes this so weird is it comes across like a fougère with oud in the base, a bit of east-meets-west, and if this is from the mind of Steven himself, he gets a round of applause for being novel. I still think the ingredients quality and finish leave a bit to be desired for the price, but if this came at a steep discount, I’d end up with one, and may if that ever happens.

The opening is right away a classic semi-oriental fougère tone that also reminds me of several Roja Dove creations, themselves upmarket reimaginings of past glorys from Guerlain. Lemon, petitgrain, and a tart dry lavender merge with apple and a sour cypriol in the heart, flanked by patchouli, geranium, and rose. The oud is medicinal here, and likely synthetic as with other oud scents from the house (thank Firmenich), and classic oakmoss joins the fray in the base with hay-like coumarin that feeds into the camphoraceous patchouli. The result here is one part Perris Monte Carlo Oud Imperial (2012) and one part Amouage Bracken Man (2016), but spun through the Roja Dove prism of luxury. Wear time is all day but sillage quiets down after about 4 hours, being every bit a close scent bubble as you’d expect from an extrait. Opulentas feels very mature so be warned if you like sweet youthful scents, because this is defintely not that at all. Best use is fall through spring in formal situations.

Christian Carbonnel is a clever perfumer here, spinning a web of several different perspectives on luxury masculinity, with Steven’s help of course, interlocked into a perfume that is pound-for-pound in the Nordstrom realm of affordability for the average white collar dude who won’t spring for Creed but likes something better than your standard YSL. Navitus Parfums as a whole comes across like another “fleece the cult of the Frag Bro or the rich, whichever comes first” kind of an operation, and Steven may just be falling into a trap baited by the exploitation of his own influencer hubris when offered to creative direct the line, but a brother’s gotta eat too so if he’s getting paid, power to him. At least Opulentas smells decent enough to not feel embarassed owning, but I don’t expect the “oudgére” to become a thing because of it. Sample first and buy discounted if you like it. Thumbs up.

Oud Luxuria by Navitus Parfums (2019)

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Oud Luxuria by Navitus Parfums (2019) really just smells like a more-concentrated Jovan Secret Oud (2012), which was itself a phenomenal steal when it was in production, but amping it up to extrait and selling 50mls of it for $140 is a bit of a stretch for me. In a similar move to Parfums de Marly, Navitus seems to go ham on top and heart notes, but then moves not-so-seamlessly into cheap but potent aromachemicals for the bases. Sometimes this works fine, as we’ve seen with some PdM releases that pass muster, but it mostly leaves me feeling unfufilled when I love the way something opens, but hate the way it irritatingly sits on skin after an hour. This is what happens to me when wearing Oud Luxuria, as it’s really just “Norlimbanol Luxuria” after the semi-barnyard synthetic rose oud comes and goes. At least Jovan had enough sense not to make its cheapie oud dead-ass strong, so the fact it’s fake never really grates on the nerves much.

The opening of Oud Luxuria is bergamot, plastic rose, and the recognizable Firmenich oud compound used in Le Labo Oud 27 (2009), Dior Leather Oud (2010), the aforementioned Jovan, and a few others. The difference with Oud Luxuria is there isn’t a lot of it, and soon we see pink pepper, geranium, and hedione take this into more-familiar masculine-approved territory. Oud Luxuria is supposed to be unisex, but the stuff goes into “designer masculine” mode after about 30 minutes, then settles onto a scratchy norlimbanol “incense” base with some other sharp woody amber molecule and some musk doing a bit of talking. A green dry patchouli flits and flicks, but this stuff is basically all norlimbanol and woody amber scratch, irritating the Hell out of me once it dries. Built for cost they say, but sold at a premium (in a bottle suspiciously close to what Roja Dove uses for his parfum colognes). If you wear this, expect days-long longevity (if you choose to allow it on clothes especially), and best use I’d say is in winter for formal situations.

So Steven from Redollesence was creative director for the original line, but ultimately he’s not the accountant paying forward for the R&D cost, just the guy telling the labs what he likes and them making something to suit based on his input, so he’s not to blame for the cheapness. As it stands, Navitus Parfums Oud Luxuria smells good 75% of the way (even if not great), then plummets into nose-searing chaos like a typical designer oud take done wrong, so I’m guessing he did his best based on what he had at hand. Same for perfumer Christian Carbonnel, who was the hands and nose to match Steven’s brain, both likely hobbled by budgets set forth by the Middle Eastern conglomerate company (look it up) that funded this whole thing. If they bad both been given the kind of budgets Roja Dove enjoys, this could have been great, but would also be even more expensive, like three times more. Thumbs down.

Altamir by Ted Lapidus (2008)

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Altamir by Ted Lapidus (2008) is one of those fragrances that doesn’t get touched much by prominent or “serious” critics, influencers, “tastemakers”, or most 100k+ subscriber YouTube reviewers because like most things from this house, it’s a cheaply-made but high-performance “cologne guy” scent from a brand that seems to have such a guy at heart. I mean come on, Ted Lapidus was a once-prominent designer couture house that like so many, was converted into little more than a licensed badge for perfume and accessory makers looking to get into the game after the maison itself entered a twilight fugue. Fans of 80’s powerhouse fragrances will always remember (or be introduced to) Lapidus pour Homme (1987), but beyond that, the relevance of the brand in perfume is anyone’s guess. This is especially true since The Bogart Group has owned the label and used it to release fragrant B-sides to its own cheapie power sauces like it used to do with Balenciaga until that license was snatched away when the latter was rebooted as a couture brand. So what should you expect then with Altamir? Well, a lot of things, but none of them really all that mind-blowing. Just know that everything here is louder than everything else you could compare it to, on purpose.

Altamir at face value smells like a clubber; no surprise there, considering who Bogart and its licensed brands makes perfumes for and generally how they’re worn by those clientele. A lot of different clubbers come to mind, some of them technically proto-clubbers from the late 80’s and early 90’s like old Lapdius pour Homme, and a similar house DNA follows suit. People with some knowledge in this area will compare Altamir to Minotaure by Palomo Picasso (1992), Sculpture Homme by Nikos (1994), or more-recent such scents as the discontinued semi-venerated Gaultier 2 by Jean-Paul Gaultier (2005). Maybe Altamir was meant to be a competitor? The opening is a sweet blast of neroli and pineapple, the last one reminding me most of Lapidus pour Homme, the former reminding me of Nikos, but also oddly of the as-yet-created Maison Francis Kurkdjian APOM pour Homme (2009). The neroli ends up stealing the focus from the pineapple, as the warm jasmine indole swimming in ethyl maltol vanilla of the heart takes over. Base-wise, this is tonka, amber, “fruitchouli” grade patchouli isolate, a dirty musk, and a woody-amber. That last part adds a bit of itch to an otherwise smooth sugary bomb, but I’ll let it slide. Wear time is until you take it off, with context being up to you.

It goes without saying that sillage and projection are monstrous, and Altamir gets cloying fast with a heavy hand, as is probably intended by the trolls behind all Lapidus and Bogart fragrances. The bottom line is you get mostly an amber fragrance with patchouli, musk, and tonka in a creamy-sweet neroli-forward bomb that will only feel moderate in wear during the coldest winter. Entering the club with this will make the concurrently-released Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008) feel like it came off the dollar menu at McDonald’s, while those wanting a classier and more-balanced take on this idea should spring for the MFK. It’s funny when you think about it, as stuff like Gaultier 2 was a springboard for Francis Kurkdjian (who composed it) to make APOM, while this takes the same leap of logic but cheapens out on the blend and dials straight up to Ludicrous Speed in performance, overshooting its target effect by light years. As mentioned earlier, that’s likely on purpose and in the end, we still have a rather wearable if sweet floral amber for men (but smelling unisex to me), with a nice price. I’m hit or miss with sweet ambers like these and Altamir works for when I want to let my inner “cologne guy” out, although I suggest sampling if you’re unsure. Thumbs up

Black Orchid Parfum by Tom Ford (2020)

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The original Black Orchid (2006) was a big statement on the mindset of Tom Ford as a creative director for perfumes, only barely touched upon with his work for LVMH in the form of fragrances released for Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci before both were sold off to L’Oréal after his departure. Black Orchid was bold, marketed to women, but embraced by all genders in a similar manner to classic Guerlains, and proof of concept that LVMH made a mistake by letting him go so easy. Maybe he was going to leave regardles, who’s to say? But I know the commercial creative nadir being experienced by way of incessanant algorithmic releases at the houses he left behind shows what happens when “innovation under Capitalism” takes precedence over having an actual soul, even if such a soul is deliciously tainted as Tom Ford’s likely is. Black Orchid Parfum (2020) is also a big statement, touted as the most intense version of Black Orchid ever created, but with no perfumer taking credit for it (not even the original’s David Apel) as if no one wants to risk backlash if it bombs in the eyes of die-hard fans. Well, I’m here to say Black Orchid Parfum isn’t actually more intense, at least not in performance, because nobody really beats the near-noxious projection and sillage of the original (especially in vintage), although in a sensual sense it does just about outdo the OG. How? Easy, let me explain: Black Orchid Parfum tosses out what residual woody amber dryness the original had in its late-stage wear, and doubles down on musks, adds sweetness and booziness, blurs the gender lines even further, but stays close to skin, foring you to move closer to get a whiff.

The opening of Black Orchid Parfum is gorgeous, even more absolutely resplendant than the original, with a lot of the controversial floral elements manly-men like to bash on dialed back in favor of an enhanced truffle note like Tom Ford Noir de Noir (2007) from the Private Blend line, mixed with the sweetness of a boozy plum. Anyone who has smelled the original Michael for Men by Michael Kors (2001), a scent made under Ford’s watch by LVMH for Kors before the latter spun off into having Interparfums handle their fragrances, knows this boozy plum. Yeah, it’s not real booze or real plum, and registers more ambery than anything, but it mixes with synthetic ylang-ylang (because IFRA) and the entire composition of the original Black Orchid in a trick reminiscent of Guerlain’s “Guerlinade”, eventually moving into a base that feels more oriental than the eau de parfum. Patchouli, some tonka sweetness, amber, vanilla, and some nondescript creamy woodiness mix with what remains of the original Black Orchid’s somewhat neon dry down, absent a lot of the trailing aldehydes that give the classic version it’s big-hipped vavoom. Is this more masculine? Yes. Is it masculine enough to make the grade for guys that still call everything “cologne” and need “for men” on the bottle somewhere to feel secure in themselves? No. Wear time will be very long legged as this is a parfum, but after the first 35 minutes, this scent implodes on skin. Use romantically, or even layer with the OG if you want more top notes, but make no mistake, this is no easier of a wear and not to be taken to the office or in crowded places unless you’re comfortable with conjuring the ghost of Zsa Zsa Gábor wherever you go.

The other good news is this only ranks $15 to $20 more per 100ml than the original Black Orchid at retail, meaning it isn’t any more overpriced really than most of the newer Signature line fragrances, and after it filters down into discounters, will be found there for the price of nearly any other designer at retail rather than at sub-niche prices like TF seems to expect at counters. If you’re a huge fan of Black Orchid, trying this is a no-brainer, and goes to the opposite end of the Black Orchid spectrum from Velvet Orchid (2014), which was a more floral experience comparatively. I don’t think Black Orchid Parfum will really convince people on the fence about the line, and the super-close but dense wear will be annoying for people who want to smell their fragrance without sniffing their wrist or over-applying (especially at the price), but as a parfum seeking to be what it claims, Black Orchid Parfum mostly succeeds. The experience is more intense, even if that is translated aesthetically and not literally, and the source material is highly respected, although there isn’t anything particularly natural about the way it smells. Nothing will ever recapture the intial zeitgeist Black Orchid unleashed upon the world, and I’m glad to see Black Orchid Parfum doesn’t try to, and had it been released at the same time as the eau de parfum, would still feel like it fits its own nomenclature. If the Black Orchid eau de parfum is destined for the red carpet, this parfum iteration is a smoother, muskier, more-passionate but soft-spoken vibe meant for the after-party. This one is fairly easy to sample, so there’s no reason anyone should have to take my word for it, just temper your expectations a tad. Thumbs up.

Costume National Homme by Costume National (2009)

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Costume National (stylized “CoSTUME NATIONAL”) is an Italian fashion house established in 1986, and one you don’t hear much about, but is typically priced above most other fashion houses of similar ilk. This makes it feel like one of those old-school “if you don’t know it, you can’t afford it” sort of millionaires in-crowd brands in the same token as Louis Vuitton formerly was despite Costume National by comparison being such a young house. Rappers put Louis Vuitton in the mainstream spotlight, but Costume National has had no such celebrity or pop culture publicity as of yet, relying mostly on the in-the-know types spreading news word of mouth about the brand. As for the perfumes, they launched in earnest in the 2000’s, and Costume National Homme (2009) came about just before the decade’s end, offering a bit of a stylistic chimera with incredible performance. The capless clear bottle doesn’t say much about the scent, in a true avant-garde minimalist stereotype sort of way, but you’re dealing with semi-oriental/semi-chypre musk fragrance that mixes some heady dried fruit notes with sandalwood and labdanum in a way that touches upon vibes of the 90’s and 2000’s, but still feels intemporal in the end. Domonique Ropion composed this, with his smooth blending of synthetic and natural ingredients (when given the budget to do so) a hallmark of the fragrance. Like Tom Ford or Comme des Garçons, Costume National sits in a murky nowhereland between designer and niche both in price point and style, so I didn’t expect this to be the usual cup of Joe.

Costume National Homme opens with a pretty clear and present fig, sweetened and built out with grapefruit and bergamot, spiced and rounded with cardamom. Nobody really lists this online as being in the scent, but anyone who’s smelled Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme (1999) or Marc Jacobs for Men (2002) knows this note here. A bit more rounding brings this opening closer to a male version of Tom Ford Black Orchid (2006), but minus the truffle and immense density of that scent, even if Costume National Homme is quite opaque. The heart claims notes of cinnamon, cloves, and thyme, most of which I believe are there, but there is a touch of dark rose a la Chanel Égoïste (1990)crossed with Cartier Déclaration d’Un Soir (2012) that bears mentioning here, with something like a tea note too which combined also brings Le Labo Thé Noir 29 (2015) into frame. It’s all pretty complex stuff even when the base emerges, adding a sandalwood tone also reminiscent of Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme, which is a very dry un-creamy “woody” sandalwood (like red sandalwood) which acts like a waypoint to guide all the sweet fruits and spice home. Patchouli and labdanum with some white musk and a speck of vetiver finish off the fragrance, which then hums on skin for a day or more if you don’t wash it, projecting loudly for the first six hours and reducing to a noticeable wake into the wee hours of the wear. Costume National Homme fits the part of feeling appropriately “niche” for it’s upscale price tag, but really that’s an abstract construct of anything being creative anymore assumed to be expensive beyond reason, which is a not a good standard to keep. Best use here is in fall through spring, but avoiding summer heat, as unique signature or all-around grab.

Costume National Homme plays at being both formal and romantic, but the never really dips into the casual mode. Feeling like a fig fragrance dosed with tea, spices, musk, and sweet citruses laid down on dry woods, Costume National Homme is a veritable hall of mirrors when it comes to moods and tones. Some moments this feels approachable, and others it doesn’t, making it read sophisticated, intimidating, but not enough to eschew all approach, just with the warning that if you have something to say to its wearer, it had better be worth his time. This fits the theme of the house, which is another one of those “everything is either black or white, buttons in funny places, and only fits a pale waif with droopy shoulders”, so if you want to feel emotionally aloof and beautifully fragile but only on the surface like some vampire from an Anne Rice novel, this scent is for you. Then there’s the price, which takes some explaining. Nobody knew what this was when launched and it flopped, being discontinued and entering discounters where all the fragrance nuts snapped it up then fell in love. Someone must have went back and told Costume National, who put the thing back into production but more-closely guarded the distribution, meaning you’ll pay retail of about $125 for 50ml of this EdP or $165 for 100ml, the latter of which is likely a lifetime supply at this strength. I like Costume National Homme even though I have a love/hate relationship with fig, but I recommend sampling first because the kitchen sink construction can tire you out if you don’t absolutely love it. Thumbs up.

Azzaro pour Homme Intense by Azzaro (2015)

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Color me impressed, and I wasn’t poised to like this at first glance due to the usual shenanigans designers pull when making “modern” flankers to decades-old fragrances, but I am gladly proven wrong in my usual assumptions here. Azzaro pour Homme Intense (2015) is not the same animal as Azzaro pour Homme Eau de Toilette Intense (1992), but often gets confused for it due to the extreme similarity in packaging, much to the chagrin of vintage lovers looking for the older sauce. What that stuff was, compared to this eau de parfum flanker, is essentially a more-intense original Azzaro pour Homme (1978) with a few key tweaks (like added artemisia). With this Olivier Pescheaux composition, we see an entirely different fragrance carrying mere shades of the original Azzaro pour Homme in its arms, which is a good thing for folks looking for variety among flankers but a bad thing if a stronger Azzaro pour Homme is what you’re after in this. For the most part, this is a boozy spicy gourmand superimposed onto a fougère structure, or more specifically, the bones of the original Azzaro pour Homme. I think this combination works rather well, although it’s not the most exciting thing in the universe either, but sometimes you’re not looking for excitement in a fragrance, either. Azzaro pour Homme Intense may be a sort of mood music in that regard, but more on that further on.

The opening of Azzaro pour Homme Intense is going to come across sweet, but not cloyingly so, boozy, and a bit spicy. Spark for Men by Liz Claiborne (2003) is immediately called to mind with this effect, with cardamom and cinnamon following traces hints of the anise and lemon of the original, bolstered by a brandy accord that reminds me of Spark’s cognac (they are related liqueurs anyway). The official note tree claims vetiver but that doesn’t leap out at me, but what I do get is some sweet honeyed amber also like Spark and tonka which carries a tobacco-like quality that you’d find in things like Burberry London for Men (2006), before the soul of Azzaro eventually takes over. After it does, the familiar patchouli, oakmoss, leather, and dry aromatic properties of Azzaro pour Homme peek through a finishing touch of vanilla. The gourmand boozy sweetness and spice never fully fade and the final dry down becomes a bit linear once all things are said and done, which is where Azzaro pour Homme Intense can be a bit boring. Some may see this as comforting, so if you like something that hugs warmly in tobacco-like sweet tonka and oakmoss without variation or surprise for it’s final stages, this is for you. Wear time is about the same as the current formula of original Azzaro pour Homme, and projection sits a little closer, but with longer sillage thanks to EdP strength. If you don’t mind boozy ambery fragrances, this could be a winner in winter but beyond that you should use it casually indoors.

Azzaro pour Homme Intense won’t make converts of people not enamored by the main entry, because it shares some DNA with it, but fans of the classic Azzaro aromatic fougère that want something with beefier thighs to run a race in cooler climates have no further than to look here. I like Azzaro pour Homme Intense, but I’m not 100% sure how much I need it in my collection considering Spark serves much the same need and more uniquely than this can, but I have some friends really pressing me to pick up a bottle. So, for how little it (and most Azzaro) fragrances can be had for at discounters, it may be worth the coin just for the novelty of Azzaro with a Christmassy twist, which is where my mind keeps going with this flanker. For the brand-loyal looking for something like this under the Azzaro house umbrella,even better yet, and you don’t have to a be a huge fan of the original Azzaro pour Homme because the heart of that scent is only about 30% of the total mix here. Still, there is a bit of something old and a bit of something new (by comparison) in Azzaro pour Homme Intense, so it may be worth noting for sticklers about vintage or modern designs that this equally bridges those schools of thought, meaning some compromise is needed to appreciate what’s being offered. Azzaro pour Homme Intense is the one to wear in penny loafers and a robe by a toasty fire, and I can dig it. Thumbs up.

Le Mâle Aviator by Jean Paul Gaultier (2020)

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Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle Aviator (2020) really should have been named “Office Mâle”, because it smells like someone tried taking the DNA of the original Le Mâle (1995) and twisted it up with a bit of Carolina Herrera CH Men (2009) mixed in for that middle-of-the-road office juice feeling. This isn’t inherently bad of course, as many Le Mâle flankers like Ultra Mâle (2015), Le Beau (2019), and Le Mâle Le Parfum (2020) have gone down this ultra-sweet almost boyishly playful direction in varying degrees of intensity, which may actually appeal more to the Grindr app gay culture of 2020 than the gay discotheque scene of the 90’s that embraced the original . In any case, Le Mâle Aviator is the one that works while the others play, the mature gay man who’s hung up his crop tops and cut-off shorts and moved into his cardigan and MacBook phase, artisanal espresso in hand. He uses Tinder instead of Grindr and believes in the art of conversation, but still wants to remember the days he sweated until 3am to house mixes of London Beat or The Real McCoy, so he keeps a bottle of the original Le Mâle but uses this one when he has to go into the office because he can’t accomplish his task in a Zoom call. Even if this isn’t you, Le Mâle Aviator may work for you in the same way.

The opening is going to be the teltale lavender and mint of Le Mâle, but with a sharp green violet leaf smoothed over by some citrus sweetness. The violet never completely goes awaym but it does recede behind a wall of fuzzy cashmeran and geranium that make up the heart. From here, comparisons to CH Men are strongest, but Le Mâle Aviator does its own thing on virtue of that lavender and mint tandem that CH Men does not have, then makes the scent all about the creaminess of amber, vanilla, and some kind of synthetic stab at sandalwood which reminds me of what they use in most sandalwood-themed shaving products (maybe Javanol), padded out with tonka. The effect is a dapper and sedate Le Mâle experience with prickly green violet leaf floating about in the moderate sweetness, woodiness, and musky tonka trail you’d expect Le Mâle to have. The freshness never fully leaves, but neither does the callbacks to the flirtatious borderline tacky nature of the original, as if it’s trying to be an office executive giving you inappropriate bedroom eyes from over his glasses. People get fired for that sort of thing now, you know. Wear time is average for a Le Mâle scent, so above average compared other designers, but sillage is just okay, making a nice personal bubble you don’t have to share if you don’t want.

I’m not a huge fan of these sort of amalgamated mishmash woody/musky/tonka sort of perfumes that remind me too much of the late 2000’s, although I enjoy this. For me, Calvin Klein Man (2007) is the epitome of this kind of thing, even though CH Men is more popular and gets copied more (even by the house of Carolina Herrera itself), but if I was in the market for the Le Mâle take on this style, I’d be at home with Le Mâle Aviator. Unfortunately, like most Le Mâle flankers actually worth a damn, this is limited edition, so you better hurry up and get your nose on it if you’re catching this review near the date of release, and stock up if you like it. Otherwise, you’ll be crying the blues like people clawing each other for overpriced bottles of the discontinued Fleur du Mâle (2007), the only other flanker to try something in the Le Mâle line that didn’t directly belong in a night club. To be fair Fleur du Mâle was a dry run for a style Francis Kurkdjian would later perfect at his own house, while this flanker made by an unknown perfumer just does a bit of DNA mixing, so I doubt this will ever reach unicorn status, but better be safe than sorry if the idea of “Office Mâle” sounds appealing to you. One of the least exciting, but also most satisfying Le Mâle releases in years. Thumbs up.