Off to Ibiza by Brecourt

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: watermelon, raspberry, pink peony, sandalwood, musk

Comment: Off to Ibiza is part of Les Contextuels Collection
Off to Ibiza is a vibrant, carefree and feminine fruity-floral.

Starting out with a succulent fusion of watermelon and raspberry, the peony keeps a low profile, while a musky sandalwood drydown soon rises to the surface. All in all, it's a relatively simple composition, with just the right amount of sweetness. Sadly, for the reminder of its lifespan, only faint fruity-musk traces are evident.

Ultimately, there's nothing really noteworthy about it.


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Osmanthus Guilin by Brecourt

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: bergamot, peach, tea, orange blossom, violet, osmanthus, jasmine sambac, tuberose, labdanum, sandalwood, cashmere wood, musk

Comment: Osmanthus Guilin is part of Les Éphémères Collection
Being the fourth Les Éphémères release, Osmanthus Guilin isn't any better than the other three.

Most of the chords are discernible, with a pleasant pairing of peach and tea. However, the osmanthus is largely eclipsed by the tuberose and jasmine. Possessing a rich orange blossom note, the composition initially smells like a floral fabric conditioner. It's only when a clinical woody-musk base surfaces that this olfactory association fades... only to be replaced by a cheap-smelling woody-floral air freshener aroma.

As always with this pseudo-luxury line, it's mostly quiet on the skin and provides inadequate longevity.


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Oud Santal by Brecourt

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: nutmeg, clove, saffron, violet, iris, oud, leather, cypriol, gurjum balsam, sandalwood, cashmere wood, ambergris, musk

Comment: Oud Santal is part of Les Éphémères Collection
Oud Santal is described as "an extraordinary alliance of sandalwood and oud". However, there's just one small caveat, regarding this alliance: it's anything but extraordinary.

Commencing with a spicy-floral introduction, a smoky oud-leather pairing represents the heart. The band aid or medicinal effect, usually found in Montale oud fragrances, is also clearly evident. With a balsamic and creamy woodiness that soon ensues, this stage temporarily delays the dreaded and impending woody-musk drydown, which is artificial, mundane and woefully unoriginal.

Possessing hardly any sillage, especially after the first few minutes, its tenacity is just as underwhelming.


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Poivre Bengale by Brecourt

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: Bengali pepper, ginger, nutmeg, clove, leather, sandalwood, cashmere wood, ambergris

Comment: Poivre Bengale is part of Les Éphémères Collection
Largely comprising of spices, woods and leather, Poivre Bengale is terribly lacklustre.

It's just another musky, linear and derivative peppery woods concoction, without any substantial presence. The pepper starts out as the star accord, with most of the other notes being less discernible, before a leatheriness takes over. However, just like Rosa Gallica, an overdose of cashmere wood only cheapen things further.

Putting insipid juice into an extravagant bottle, as part of some ‘exotic' collection with an excessive price tag to match, may fool some people but not everyone.


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Rosa Gallica by Brecourt

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: frankincense, rosebay, Rosa Gallica, myrrh, ebony, cashmere wood, ambergris, musk

Comment: Rosa Gallica is part of Les Éphémères Collection
Supposedly a woody rose offering, Rosa Gallica fails to captivate from the very outset.

With a touch of frankincense, the composition exhibits a jammy rose accent, which resides on an unpleasantly synthetic woody-musk foundation. The overall olfactory effect is astringent, somewhat rubbery and plastic-like, with a dark aroma chemical dissonance running throughout (probably caused by the myrrh interacting with the cashmere wood).

As this new collection is roughly twice the price of anything from Brecourt's standard line, one was hoping for a notable improvement in quality. Regrettably, there appears to be no evidence of this whatsoever.

Projection is moderate, with average staying power.


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On the Road by Timothy Han / Edition

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: bergamot, lemon, galbanum, lavandin, patchouli, labdanum, birch, cedar, benzoin, tonka bean, vanilla, guaiac wood, Peru balsam, oakmoss, amyris
"Like the Kerouac original, On the Road is a modern travelogue classic with attitude and style to spare."

The second offering from Timothy Han / Edition perfectly lives up to its name.

Bold accents of leather, smoke, rubber, gasoline and asphalt intermingle with an O'driù-esque opening of citrus, lavender, galbanum and something distinctly coniferous. This tar-infused citric greenness gradually shifts from post-industrial countryside smog to smouldering embers of campfire woods and ambery resins. As the resins slowly infiltrate the composition, the aroma becomes woodier, warmer and sweeter. By the time it reaches the drydown, a styrax-like smokiness is evident but is less abrasive than the top notes – spearheading a beautiful woody-green balsamic muskiness.

Residing on a bed of Peru balsam, oakmoss and soft woods, On the Road is an enthralling effort that puts the emphasis back onto what niche and artisanal perfumery should be about. It's superbly-blended, smells natural, and arouses and titillates one's olfactory receptors.

Starting out rather loud, it reduces its volume considerably – so much that one wishes it had more presence. If both sillage and longevity weren't such glaring issues, one would have awarded it at least four stars.


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She Came to Stay by Timothy Han / Edition

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: lemon, basil, nutmeg, Indonesian clove, geranium, patchouli, labdanum, cedar, vetiver, oakmoss
"This 100% natural fragrance is set in a base of certified organic grape alcohol and inspired by the novel of the same name written by Simone de Beauvoir in 1943."

Timothy Han / Edition is an East London based artisanal fragrance house, "crafting olfactory journeys for those who follow their passions". Owned by Canadian perfumer Timothy Han, he was also a former assistant to John Galliano and places great importance on using natural ingredients. Due to the fact that raw fragrance materials vary, from year to year, each fragrance is produced in limited volumes (known as 'editions'), with a number used to identify each individual batch.

She Came to Stay is this house's debut release and, while it's a pleasant chypré with an abundance of woods and spices, it's essentially a revamped version of Frédéric Malle's Noir Épices (with some oakmoss included). Both open with a candied citrus, alongside an array of spices, with the main distinction being that She Came to Stay opts for a herbaceous flourish in place of Noir Épices' peppery assault.

With nutmeg and clove being a commonality between the two, they also both possess a geranium heart (albeit Noir Épices accentuates this accord with the addition of some rose). And although both woody bases consist of patchouli and cedar, it's at this point where they diverge – with Noir Épices employing sandalwood, and She Came to Stay incorporating vetiver and oakmoss.

Sweetened with a touch of labdanum, She Came to Stay gradually evolves into something woodier and darker, yet the lingering spicy-citrus aspect keeps any olfactory associations with Noir Épices firmly in mind. Yes, She Came to Stay isn't as intensely peppery, raw or metallic as Noir Épices, but their similarities are impossible to overlook from beginning to end.

On the whole, She Came to Stay isn't entirely original but it's still a respectable creation, with moderate sillage and good longevity. For those who found Noir Épices too aggressively spicy, She Came to Stay would make an excellent alternative.


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Kadota by Michael Storer

*****
Year: 2008

Notes: green fig, dates, jammy notes, tonka bean, sandalwood, musks
Portrayed as a "creamy green fig delight", Kadota (the name of a variety of fig that has a yellowish-green skin) is a world away from the more conventional quality fig offerings, such as L'Artisan's Premier Figuier, Diptyque's Philosykos and Heeley's Figuier.

As opposed to a fresh, creamy and woody rendition of ripe figs, Kadota investigates the dried syrupy aspect of this fruit. Evocative of Serge Lutens' Arabie, Kadota is all about dark stewed fruits, but without the challenging spices and resinous-balsamic underlining. In their place, one can discern salty green flourishes, akin to celery, and dried grass instead.

With more emphasis on the dates and jammy notes, the fig tends to play more of a supporting role. However, over time, everything starts to structurally fall apart. The lush sweetness is dramatically toned down, any initial clarity is lost and an immortelle-like earthiness suddenly takes over. By the drydown, Kadota smells more like Serge Lutens' Chypre Rouge than a fig scent, which is the last thing that one was expecting.

Both sillage and longevity are also severely lacking.


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Winter Star by Michael Storer

*****
Year: 2007

Notes: bergamot, helvetolide, lavender, carnation, karanal, labdanum, Siam benzoin, Peru balsam, Tolu balsam, oakmoss, civettone, musks
Originally composed for the holiday season, Winter Star is classified as a gourmand... even though the official notes indicate that it's pretty much a chypré.

With a dash of bergamot, the helvetolide wraps its fruity-green self around the lavender. Exuding a musky aura, the composition is essentially a potpourri of spices, woods and balsams, topped with the ambery, caramel-like presence of karanal (another aroma chemical with woody-amber properties). As for the musks, they tend to be less animalic than those used in other Michael Storer creations, with the civettone lacking the faecal and floral depths of natural civet.

Personally, it's a pleasant but underwhelming outing, which remains an insipid musky skin scent for most of its duration. Lacking any oomph or richness, this tends to be a persistent issue with this US niche house.


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Stephanie by Michael Storer

*****
Year: 2007

Notes: pink pepper, black pepper, galbanum, chrysanthemum, jasmine sambac, tuberose, angelica root, musk

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Described as a "recreation of the headspace of the gardenia flower", Stephanie is a delightful gardenia soliflore, employing pepper, green notes and various white florals.

It's fresh, natural-smelling and not too sweet, with the jasmine and tuberose evenly presented. Reminiscent of Frédéric Malle's Carnal Flower, Stephanie possesses a verdancy that persists throughout its lifespan. However, the Carnal Flower parallel is more subtle, with the galbanum setting the scene and the angelica root upholding the green floral theme.

Despite the fact that neither are listed, one is certain that either orange blossom or rose is also present, due to the composition's soapy demeanour. As for the base, one can also identify an abundant serving of civet, which lends the floral proceedings an enchanting indolic quality. And while one couldn't detect any woods, if there are any, it's probably either a dash of sandalwood or something very discreet.

Although it's not a bona fide gardenia creation, it still succeeds in emulating the olfactory properties of this very rare ingredient. Unfortunately, just like the other female offerings from this house, it's too quiet on the skin and delicately lingers for roughly four hours.

Regardless of this, it still gets a thumbs-up for being so well-composed.


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