Mojave Ghost by Byredo

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: Jamaican naseberry, ambrette seeds, violet, magnolia, amber, cedar, sandalwood, Chantilly musk
Once again, Byredo reminds the world just how mediocre its so-called niche creations are.

Inspired by the Ghost Flower, which grows in the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado Deserts, Mojave Ghost initially lives up to Byredo's description of an arid desert – with a sparse, minimal and slightly fruity opening, alongside wispy violet nuances.

But the fruitiness continues to intensify, becoming progressively greyer and more synthetic over time. After the first hour, it smells like a cheap-smelling knock-off designer scent, and continues that way until the very end of its pathetically worthless lifespan.

Preforming very close to this skin, it's a complete abomination and leaves one puzzled as to why this house is still in business (let alone considered high-quality niche).


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Flowerhead by Byredo

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: Sicilian lemon, lingonberry, angelica seeds, green notes, rose, wild jasmine sambac, tuberose, suede, ambergris
Based on the olfactory idea of an Indian bride, at a traditional Indian wedding, Flowerhead is simply awful.

After one's nose has been bludgeoned by a horrid overdose of angelica seed, it quickly develops into a dreaded tuberose and jasmine bomb. The remaining notes are largely nondescript, as the brash white florals continue to pulsate in a very linear and slightly green fashion.

Actually, Flowerhead isn't that much different from Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb (Flowerhead, Flowerbomb...) and that's its biggest problem. With great staying power, it's nothing more than a shameless rip-off of a very popular female designer fragrance, completely devoid of any floral, spicy or resinous exoticism.


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1996 by Byredo

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: black pepper, juniper berry, violet, orris, leather, patchouli, black amber, vanilla
Inspired by the photograph 'Kirsten 1996', by Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, according to Byredo, 1996 is "an olfactory snapshot, not only of the image but of our emotional response to it". While one questions if this Swedish niche house has blatantly 'borrowed' Olfactive Studio's unique concept, the end result is actually far better than anything that this French niche house has produced so far.

1996 is a sweet and warm oriental, with gentle dusty swirls of leather, orris, vanilla and black amber. Soon after the subtle peppery and gin-like juniper preface, there's a subdued raspiness throughout the composition, which one would attribute to both the leather and black amber. However, the vital presence of a creamy vanilla accord prevents the proceedings from becoming too withered.

Exuding powdery and rooty nuances, in pastel mauve hues, the violet and orris seamlessly converge to uphold the integral floral aspect. And as the black amber later becomes more pronounced, the patchouli surfaces from the shadows but continues to diffuse at a diplomatic rate – confirming an earthy darkness residing beneath the seductively creamy, floral and resinous haze.

Providing excellent persistence and moderate sillage, 1996 loosely bases itself on Profumum's Soavissima but adds further structural complexity, while replacing the heliotrope with some vanilla. Although its performance on the skin can be a little turbulent, it's still well-executed and puts most Byredo releases to shame.

With that said, it's an encouraging step in the right direction, for this Swedish niche house.


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Inflorescence by Byredo

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: green leaves, lily of the valley, pink freesia, rose, magnolia, jasmine
Inflorescence is described as "a freshly cut bouquet of flowers that has been supercharged".

Commencing with an intensely fresh and green bouquet of florals, it abruptly settles down to reveal herbaceous subtleties. With damp and slightly pink floral flourishes, it's transparent in its general demeanour and exhibits a honeyed sweetness towards the drydown.

However, it smells more synthetic as it further develops and lacks a substantial base. Providing minimal sillage and surprisingly respectable longevity, it isn't particularly satisfying or groundbreaking.


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Bubblegum Chic by Heeley

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: red fruits, jasmine, tuberose, white musk
Of the three Heeley parfum extraits, there obviously had to be an obligatory creation for women and Bubblegum Chic is it. But, overlooking its contradictory name, its major flaw lies in its crass and juvenile demeanour.

Starting out very strong, it smells like bubblegum and possesses an overtly pink aura. However, it's also syrupy sweet, synthetic-smelling and feminine for all the wrong reasons. Ultimately, it's just another derivative tuberose and jasmine concoction, with fruity bubblegum top notes. As for 'chic', it's far from sophisticated or elegant.

With more worthwhile tuberose offerings from other houses, such as Serge Lutens, Robert Piguet, Histoires de Parfums and Frédéric Malle, Bubblegum Chic will probably appeal more to fragrance novices, teenage girls and those with an unhealthy fetish for anything pink.

Once again, with Heeley, tenacity is still a concerning and on-going issue.


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Agarwoud by Heeley

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: rose, Vietnamese oud, Laotian oud, frankincense, benzoin, ambergris
According to rumours, it took four years to develop Agarwoud. Based on sampling it, one finds that very hard to believe. Well, that's unless most of that time was actually spent procuring and distilling the oud...

Surprisingly, it's a light, gentle and inoffensive oud-rose creation. There's nothing particularly dark, edgy or even innovative about it. The rose is fresh, transparent and soapy, and not in the least bit sweet or voluptuous. As for the oud itself, it's devoid of any barnyard or fruity properties, and is well-mannered instead. With ephemeral and subdued traces of frankincense, the composition rests on an amiable bed of benzoin and ambergris.

Overall, it's neither dense, bombastic nor spicy. But, at the same time, it's structurally sparse, is too restrained and plays it too safe. While it may appeal to those with conservative tastes, it's still an uninspiring release for a latecomer to the oud craze. Plus, after four years, it would only be natural to expect something more.

Persisting for less than six hours, its staying power is also lacking.


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L'Amandière by Heeley

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: green almond, linden blossom, hawthorn, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, grass, green notes, woods
L'Amandière is undoubtedly the most ghastly out of the three Heeley parfum extraits.

Mainly revolving around the almond and linden blossom, it starts off as astringent, chalky and somewhat crude. With verdant, mineral and woody accents, it's noticeably metallic, clinical and drab, with the lingering fragrancy of melting plastic and cheap almond-scented body lotion.

With an overdose of almond, it smells more like an Undergreen reject with underwhelming longevity.


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Flash Back by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: grapefruit, orange, rhubarb, Granny Smith apple, pink pepper, vetiver, cedar, amber, sandalwood, musks
Another Olfactive Studio release, another strong sense of déjà vu...

Flash Back is partly about the rhubarb, which smells very natural and, when coupled with the citrus accords, is fresh, youthful and uplifting. The composition opens with a blast of these succulent fruits, while the apple yields some extra green flourishes.

It's only when the pepper and vetiver transpire that one senses some parallels with Montale's Red Vetyver and, to a lesser extent, Hermès' Terre d'Hermès. But Flash Back lacks the mineral nuances of Terre d'Hermès, and the vetiver isn't as copious as in Red Vetyver. What really sets Flash Back apart is the luscious rhubarb aspect that weaves throughout its structure, as well as a thinner peppery vetiver premise.

As the vetiver softens, some cedar and amber soon enter the fray. While at this point things start to smell a tad artificial, these two notes serve to add further dimension to the proceedings, rather than attract any attention to themselves. Resting on a bed of white musks, traces of rhubarb can still be detected during the drydown. Once again, staying power is below average with quiet sillage.

Overall, it's far from being considered an essential niche fragrance purchase. An extra star is awarded solely for the citrus and rhubarb combination.


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Lumière Blanche by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, iris, almond milk, tonka bean, cedar, sandalwood, cashmere wood, white musks
Lumière Blanche is a soft and mellow exercise in spicy white musk minimalism.

It's light and clean in its general demeanour – so much that it smells like some cheap moisturising lotion. The gritty white opening is redolent of the chalk cliff photo, which the composition is based on, and the tonka bean, iris and almond milk later provide a sweet milky nuttiness to the proceedings. As it evolves, a synthetic base of woods and musk gradually takes over.

Unfortunately, one is unable to muster any excitement towards it. It's both derivative and anaemic in its stature, staying close to the skin and lasting four hours. And just like this house's other releases, it smells more like a designer fragrance than a quality niche offering.

In a nutshell, it's completely unremarkable.


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Chambre Noire by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: pink pepper, prune, violet, jasmine, frankincense, papyrus, leather, patchouli, vanilla, sandalwood, musk
While many of the fragrances from this house have been complete duds, Chambre Noire is an improvement but it's still far from original.

As a woody-oriental, it consists of a succulent leathery prune accord, adorned with complementary florals, and a dusty combination of frankincense, pepper and spices. The violet is short-lived but manages to leave a lasting impression, while the jasmine lightens the tone to create a plummy sweetness. As it develops, some patchouli emerges in abundance. Possessing a vanilla, sandalwood and musk base, some edge is lost towards the end but traces of its core DNA still remain.

However, what prevents Chambre Noire from being awarded a higher rating is due to the fact that it's merely an amalgamation of various other woody-incense releases. Combine Serge Luten's Serge Noir with Helmut Lang's Cuiron, while adding a largely synthetic sandalwood and white musk base, and that's basically Chambre Noire. But then again, maybe Shiseido's Féminité du Bois, and not the photo, was the real source of inspiration.

With good staying power and moderate projection, it's an elegant addition to Olfactive Studio's oeuvre but some originality is still in desperate need.


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