MAAI by Bogue Profumo

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: aldehydes, spices, oriental incense infusions, rose, green tuberose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, labdanum, resins, oakmoss, sandalwood, animal musks
MAAI is the third release from Antonio Gardoni's Italian niche house, Bogue Profumo.

Like Cologne Reloaded, MAAI successfully recreates perfumery's glorious past, while exuding a contemporary twist. However, on this occasion, it's neither an enhancement nor reconstruction of some long-forgotten vintage fragrance. Instead, it's a new creation, which largely takes its inspiration from the classic chyprés of yesteryear (particularly those from Chanel).

Commencing with spicy aldehydic accents, it's primarily a floral chypré, featuring a fresh, crisp and green floral core. With ethereal oriental incense infusions, the composition rests on a bed of resins, sandalwood, oakmoss and animal musks. But unlike Bogue's previous efforts, it isn't as herbaceous yet still possesses an old-school aura throughout.

One's not entirely sure what the musk cocktail consists of, but it's probably a mixture of castoreum, hyraceum, civet, ambergris and beeswax. This evocative animalic aroma is discernible from the very beginning and plays a central role, yet is sufficiently reined in not to give the impression that its presence is just for shock value. With leathery nuances, the musks also impart a hay-like warmth to the proceedings.

During the drydown, the resins imbue a subdued ambery sweetness, as the sandalwood adds a creamy woody sheen. By this stage, the green floral heart has long dissipated. With a sturdy oakmoss backbone, it continues to gently linger on the skin, and emit a dusty and faecal muskiness.

Superbly executed and comprising of high-quality ingredients, MAAI is both a masterful and complex effort that provides a glimmer of hope, in the light of current IFRA restrictions and EU regulations. While its staying power is respectable, one would still like Antonio to compose something more potent in the near future.

Regardless of this, MAAI is undoubtedly one of the best fragrance releases of 2014.


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Cologne Reloaded by Bogue Profumo

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: citrus, lavender, essence mixture for Colonia della Esperis, styrax, resins, castoreum

Comment: Original formulation review
The story behind Cologne Reloaded isn't one that you encounter everyday, which makes it both interesting and all the more unique.

Previously forgotten in an old pharmaceutical laboratory, Bogue founder and perfumer, Antonio Gardoni, had the good fortune of acquiring roughly forty bottles of essence mixtures, dating back to the 1950s. With most of the contents still sealed and well-preserved, he proceeded to reconstruct one of the sets of essence mixtures, for a vintage composition called Colonia della Esperis, using the original formula that accompanied the bottles.

It was only after some musing and experimenting that he decided to tinker with the end result, by adding some contemporary components to increase the concentration from 4% to 15%. After macerating this unusual blend in a small barrel, made of juniper wood, he decided to share the end-result as a limited edition release.

With a backstory such as this, one can only be thankful for being given the opportunity to sample a little piece of perfume history. With regards to the contemporary chords, citruses and lavender were added to compensate for the vintage Eau de Cologne's loss of top notes, various resins were used to provide a stronger base, and an animalic edge was also incorporated by way of some castoreum.

Cologne Reloaded is a very smoky and camphorous citrus-aromatic, opening with gentle swirls of citruses and lavender, against a dark leathery canvas of natural musk. The marriage between the vintage and contemporary aromas is both striking and well-blended. With the vintage aspect of the blend always at the forefront, yet never compromised, it's both herbaceous and medicinal. As for the contemporary aspect, the leathery smokiness of the styrax and castoreum are never too far away.

As it further evolves, the astringent opening softens somewhat, but the smokiness still continues to linger. One can also identify some labdanum and, along with the other resins, it permeates an almost powdery sweetness. During the final stages, all that remains is a sultry and mellow animalic purr, in an antiquated sense.

With moderate projection, one's only reservation is its longevity. However, under the circumstances mentioned above, this could be considered a moot point. Besides, the increased concentration is closer to that of an Eau de Toilette, which is perfectly fine but one digresses. Personally, one is just grateful to have been made privy to this project, and one is looking forward to future creations from this house.

Offering an invaluable glimpse into the golden age of perfumery, it also embodies the true spirit of modern niche perfumery. Such a fragrance this exquisite should, at the very least, be experienced.


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Zahd by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: cranberry, cherry, plum, wine ether, fir, champaca, pink lotus, gromwell, cocoa, benzoin, trisamber, oak, frankincense, Mitti Attar, Mysore sandalwood, Tolu balsam

Comment: Zahd is a limited edition release
After two years and around 80 prototypes, Zahd is the latest Slumberhouse parfum extrait, which is based on a "fairly rare" cranberry absolute. Possessing a deep ruby red colour and a 30% concentration, one was naturally curious about all the fever pitch hype that accompanied it.

As to be expected, it smells syrupy, boozy, fruity, resinous, dense and pungent. On the opening, it emanates a sweet liqueur aroma, alongside a prominent dark cocoa note (that's briefly supplemented by a somewhat salty nuance). The ripe fruitiness initially verges very close to bubblegum territory, possibly due to the champaca, but the cocoa soon diffuses the situation. With a jammy composite of cranberry, plum and cherry, its tone changes as it approaches the heart.

The brash fruity booziness is gradually tampered by a burnt wood accord. It's noticeably scratchy and, together with the oak and sandalwood, forms the woody aspect of the composition. According to Slumberhouse founder, Josh Lobb, Zahd is about 85% natural. Among the synthetics used is trisamber, which possesses dark and dry woody amber properties. Therefore, one would attribute the burnt woody element to this aroma chemical.

Over time, the parched woodiness intensifies, with gentle whiffs of frankincense occasionally greeting the nose. By the drydown, the fruity cordial slowly surrenders its dominance to the trisamber, accompanied by an earthy yet creamy underscoring of sandalwood and Mitti Attar. Faint traces of the fermented fruits continue to persist, but the woody ambery smokiness of the trisamber continues to reign supreme. It's only several hours later that fading glimmers of trisamber, sandalwood and Tolu balsam are all that remain.

While credit is given for originality, especially with the cranberry, Zahd isn't without its flaws. The bitter facets of the cranberry are drowned out by a sea of sweetness, the choice of florals does more harm than good, the oak is particularly subdued, and the artificial woody amber element is both clichéd and irritating. Maybe, sometime in the near future, one of Josh's newer offerings will be just as satisfying as Vikt... but Zahd isn't it.

Projection is below average and tenacity is in excess of six hours.


* A special thanks goes out to Lyn for making this review possible.


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Mare by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: watermelon, raspberry, blackcurrant, petrichor, thorns, silver fir, black pepper, tobacco leaves, orris, milk, Bourbon vanilla, vetiver, Scottish pine, Atlas Cedar, moss

Comment: Parfum extrait review
"The emerald aquifer. A kingdom of leaves, vines and sweet, wet vegetation."

Originally released in 2010, as an Eau de Parfum, Mare is an intriguing creation. However, one wouldn't classify it as a vegetal or verdant creation by any means, especially in the earthy sense.

Although it starts out fervently green, it's more in the sense of absinthe combined with ripe fruits. The top notes are sweet yet tart, with the watermelon (and possibly some apple) being particularly discernible. There's also a spicy tobacco accent, which gently melds with the lush, sweet and somewhat mentholated opening.

But, while there's a vague balsamic flair, one is unable to notice any earthy or leafy green aspects at any point. Instead, there's a watery and mineral-like aura that, when combined with the fruits and absinthe, establishes an aroma that's redolent of fermented grapes. Upon further investigation, the petrichor component seems to be the catalyst for this olfactory effect.

Petrichor is the scent of rain on dry earth. Originating from the oil secretion of certain plants during dry periods, this oil is absorbed into the surrounding soil and rocks. It's only during rainfall when the oil is released into the air – producing a distinctive smell that's herbaceous or vegetal (ozone is also present, if there's lightning). With balmy mineral qualities, both its aroma and flavour can be found in wines, particularly in younger whites.

Bearing this in mind, especially as a creamy heart takes hold, Mare begins to resemble Pear + Olive (sans the greasy olive oil note). The orris is there but castrated, and the vetiver is quite mild in its delivery. As for the rest of the woods, they are relatively subdued throughout the drydown, as traces of the top notes continue to faintly exhibit their former 'aquiferous' glory.

Going by the quoted description, above, it doesn't actually succeed in achieving its goal. However, as they both share certain olfactory parallels, one does consider Mare to be much better than Pear + Olive. While the green, vegetal and woody premise is sorely lacking, one never really had any high expectations in the first place.

As with most of the Slumberhouse extraits, it's not a powerhouse and has average staying power.


* A special thanks goes out to Lyn for making this review possible.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Sova by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: hops, broom, cassie, hay, sweet clover, tabanon, cocoa, Tahitian vanilla, tonka bean, amber, poplar buds, black locust, beeswax, castoreum
Shamelessly ‘borrowing' Andy Tauer's idea of part-filling 50ml bottles with glass beads, to reduce the volume to 30ml, Sova is largely a variation of Baque. One also had the good fortune of acquiring two samples, within less than a year of each other... but they smell remarkably different.

One's sample from 2012 is warm, balsamic and soft – with sweet and fruity tea-like undertones from the hops, and a honeyed dried fruits aspect accentuated by the broom. Both of these accords also possess herbaceous and spicy properties, with the broom fusing with the warm aroma from the hay. As for any booziness, it's more comforting than brash, conjuring images of an old Spanish country barn converted into a sherry distillery.

Some dry tobacco consistently weaves in and out of the composition, courtesy of the aroma chemical tabanon (or tobacco cyclohexenone). Meanwhile, there's a spicy and maple-syrup-like presence throughout. This stage also smells very similar to labdanum but is actually the poplar buds – imparting a balsamic, resinous and spicy aura, which may explain why gingerbread is often cited as being part of the composition.

As it settles down, a dark and bitter cocoa note surfaces, slightly tampered by ambery-vanillic reinforcements. The honeyed sweetness still remains but a sudden shift has taken place – from its warm, spicy, resinous and boozy beginnings to a dark woody-gourmand drydown, with a subdued animalic edge from both the castoreum and beeswax. Once again, projection isn't stellar and longevity is over six hours.

With regards to the sample from 2013, it's sharper, boozier, and more rugged and resinous (rather than smooth and balsamic). In fact, it almost smells like a dupe for Norma Kamali's Incense, but with a fruitcake sweetness substituting the copal. All the other aspects are reasonably intact, but it's darker in its general demeanour and is neither comforting nor unique. Both longevity and sillage are also similar to that of the 2012 sample.

And that's what's so self-indulgent and unprofessional about this house. Why should there be acute differences in a relatively new fragrance, within 12-18 months of its release? Why should it be acceptable for a niche house to regularly reformulate its creations, and expect the public to willingly pay for rough drafts of an idea? And why should buying a bottle be like the lottery, when not much is known about when these reformulations occurred? But as Josh once stated, if he ensured product consistency, he would "quickly become bored".

Based on all the above, investing in any fragrances from Slumberhouse is a real crapshoot.


* The final rating takes both samples into account.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Pear + Olive by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: white cognac, grape, pear, calamus, Bulgarian geranium, Roman chamomile, olive, massoia, mahogany

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
One has to admit that the concept of pear saddled with olive is an interesting concept. However, the end result isn't what one was expecting.

Pear + Olive is more akin to a sweet pear and fig concoction, with a wine nuance at the beginning. The pear is dominant, syrupy and reminiscent of the tinned variety but, in its favour, smells extremely natural. And although there's supposedly no fig in the composition, one would attribute the creamy and almost coconut aroma to the presence of the massoia.

With tender green and hay-like tones from the calamus, chamomile and geranium, it soon mellows out to allow more attention to the olive accord, which reveals a somewhat sebaceous and aromatic flair. There's also a very soft ambery-vanilla aspect to the translucent woody base, which never comes to the fore.

Compared to other creations from this house, it's not as commanding on the skin but, at the same time, could be considered more suitable for spring or summer. Alas, one still associates its general aroma with shampoos, liquid hand soaps and body creams, especially as the soapiness of the drydown increases with vigour.

With longevity of approximately six hours, its transition is seamless but it's still lacking something – possibly a stronger base of some sort. But, despite its flaws, it's still a so-so offering that fails to juxtapose the sweet and savoury aspects of the star notes convincingly.


*****
Year: 2013

Notes: cognac, pear, calamus, Bulgarian geranium, Roman chamomile, olive, massoia, mahogany

Comment: Parfum extrait review
While certain improvements have been made, the extrait version of Pear + Olive still isn't quite there.

It's certainly less boozy than before, and the pear is less prominent and sweet. Furthermore, the olive still feels like an accord that Josh has been unable to fully utilise, without it coming across as greasy. While the creamy fig aspect continues to hold true, one can sense a slightly stronger green aromatic presence throughout, which is a good thing initially.

However, for a parfum extrait, one finds it lethargic on the skin – so much that it begins to smell both linear and banal by the midway mark. Also, its longevity isn't that much better, which comes as a great surprise.

A wasted opportunity.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Norne by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: allspice, fern, hemlock, pine needles, fir balsam, frankincense, lichen, moss

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Consisting of 100% pure forest absolutes and nothing more, one has to applaud Josh Lobb for composing such an original and bold creation. With an increasing lack of satisfying coniferous-green fragrances being released, the announcement of Norne was most certainly welcomed.

Contrary to popular belief, the inspiration behind the composition actually comes from Josh Lobb's appreciation of black metal (a Scandinavian sub-genre of extreme heavy metal music), paired with the sprawling woodlands of this part of the world. Interestingly enough, the name itself confirms a very strong Scandinavian influence, as Norne is also the name of an oil field, located in the Norwegian Sea.

Norne largely consists of an impressive trio of evergreen coniferous accords (fir, pine and hemlock) set against some spices, frankincense and moss. Rich in coniferous resins, the juice is a blackish-green, with a near oily consistency – aspects that not only complement Josh's personal sources of inspiration but also its petroleum-associated name.

The opening is rich, sweet, dark and resinous, with an extremely profound coniferous aroma. Both the allspice and frankincense remain low-key but are still identifiable, while dank and slightly bitter nuances regularly weave throughout the proceedings. However, things start to go awry during the sappy mid notes...

Although it starts out rather strong, it soon lowers its volume considerably. Also, it gradually becomes sweeter and lighter in its general tone. This sweetness (probably due to the fir balsam) soon overwhelms – leaving one wishing that it had developed into something more virile, with a more striking forest undergrowth slant to it. By the drydown, not even the lichen and moss are enough to salvage it from a sweet resinous demise.

Like the odd release from this house, Norne has genuine potential but there are some pressing issues. It's not as complex as it could have been, the frankincense isn't prominent enough, there are hardly any dirty or smoky facets evident, and it's more syrupy sweet than a coniferous woody-green.

With moderate projection and below average lasting power, it sadly promises more than it actually delivers. But one still respects Norne for its initially rich coniferous introduction.


*****
Year: 2013

Notes: allspice, fern, hemlock, pine needles, fir balsam, frankincense, lichen, moss

Comment: Parfum extrait review
Not only is the Norne extrait severely lacking in sillage, its performance is also lifeless on the skin.

Most of the accords are still present but Josh has had the bright idea of injecting a stronger moss base, while either toning down or overwhelming the coniferous aspects. While the parfum extrait is slightly less sweet, it's also murkier, not blended particularly well and fails to address any of the Eau de Parfum's shortcomings.

While Josh seems intent on toning down the reformulated extraits, they are noticeably inferior as a result.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Baque by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2012

Notes: apricot, honey, straw, artemisia, tobacco leaves, davana, vanilla, parchment, cedar, ambergris
Baque is a rich and creamy tobacco scent that's, stylistically, very Lutens-esque (no surprise there). Imparting a stewed apricot accord, it opens slightly boozy, with some straw adding extra warmth to the tobacco. There's also an occasional ashy (but not smoky) aspect as well.

As it gravitates towards the heart, the davana completely seeps in and reinforces the general syrupiness of the composition. When these components finally meld with the vanilla, a creamy amber effect takes hold. Emitting suede-like nuances, the cedar gradually injects a gritty and masculine tone, during the drydown, with a demure sweet creaminess still evident.

Personally, it's one of the more acceptable offerings from this house. However, the balsamic cedar base slightly cheapens things, so much that one wishes a more complementary woody accord was employed instead. Also, it occasionally veers too close to Rume territory, during the final stages of the drydown. As for its performance, it remains close to the skin, after the initial blast, with reasonable longevity of around five hours or so.

With a little tweaking, Baque has the potential to be among the best of Slumberhouse's oeuvre, which includes the earlier formulations of Sova, Vikt and Norne.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Rume by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: mulled fruits, bay leaves, allspice, cola, hazelnut, praline, myrrh, labdanum, hay, clay
Since its inception, in 2008, Slumberhouse's inconsistencies have been baffling. The frequent discontinuations and exclusive limited editions, the numerous batch variations, the constant bottle design changes, and the lack of information for potential buyers are some of the objections one has about this niche house.

One can only assume that its founder, Josh Lobb, lacks not only the will to establish a long-term artistic vision for his company, but to also ensure that there's a reasonable level of consistency with every batch of the same release. Thinking about it now, there's no other fragrance house that has been so annoying in these areas. And although Josh has clearly stated a disinterest in uniformity, it does throw into question his consideration for the general public (and just printing a batch code, on all bottles and samples, would have been sufficient).

As for the offerings themselves, they often fail to live up to the glowing reports. Take Rume – a syrupy fragrance with lashings of rum, spices, cola, myrrh and labdanum. Once again, there's a blatant Serge Lutens influence, with Arabie being the closest point of comparison. But Rume lacks both the complexity and density of Arabie – smelling like davana essential oil one moment and Yves Saint Laurent's Opium pour Homme the next.

Although it's probably more natural than its sources of inspiration, Rume is still very unoriginal. With moderate projection and good longevity, it's another unimpressive misstep that only heightens one's personal grievances with the Slumberhouse philosophy.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Sana by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: raspberry leaves, thorns, fir balsam, magnolia, marigold, honey, suede, sweet birch
Slumberhouse is a US independent niche house, based on Portland, Oregon, where most of its fragrances are constructed around syrupy, resinous, balsamic and fruity accords.

Most of the compositions are so dense and full-bodied, one is left to conclude that many of them aspire to the style of Christopher Sheldrake's work for Serge Lutens (pre-2007). But, in contrast, the Slumberhouse offerings lack any finesse – often generating crass, ill-conceived and under-developed results. Based on this, one does wonder what all the fuss is about.

With a lot of the praise strangely coming from the US and Canada, where many of its natives tend to complain about 'strong' fragrances and other people overspraying, is this merely a case of drumming up support for 'one of their own'? It's quite an intriguing thought but one digresses.

As for Sana, it practically comes across as a dupe for Serge Luten's Chypre Rouge, but less smoky and more honey sweet. One would say it's both the raspberry leaf and fir balsam that primarily contribute towards such a comparison. But it's not as dark as some have purported it to be (and there's a huge difference between 'dark' and 'dense'). With a birch tar base, it soon mellows out with a leathery sweetness.

With moderate sillage and longevity, and based on one's experience with this house, one can confidently state the following: don't believe the hype.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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