Superstitious by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2017

Notes: aldehydes, peach, frankincense, Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, patchouli, amber, Haitian vetiver

Comment: Superstitious is part of the Par Frédéric Malle Collection
For the second instalment in the Par Frédéric Malle Collection, Superstitious acts as a homage to Moroccan-Israeli fashion designer Alber Elbaz.

With Dominique Ropion at the helm, it's an aldehydic-floral that's vaguely reminiscent of Lanvin's Arpège. But the composition still exudes a degree of modernity, opening with citric aldehydic top notes that's crisp, clean, metallic, waxy and in complete contrast to the vintage aura normally associated with such fragrances.

The peach is three-dimensional and evocative, as opposed to an obscure fruity sweetness, possessing tart and fleshy nuances. As it further develops, a one-two punch of rose and jasmine soon emerges – with a lush and silky rose component, and the jasmine exhibiting an indole-like creaminess. And even though it started out as rather loud, by the time the mid notes have been reached, its volume has lowered considerably, resulting in a soapy floral affair with mentholated subtleties.

Residing on a base of amber and woods, the patchouli adds a camphorous earthiness and the amber fortifies the preceding floral sweetness. One personally doesn't detect much frankincense, except for a wispy reminder here and there towards the end, but the vetiver ensures that the final drydown is soft and creamy with a serene grassy-woodiness.

By and large, it's a well-composed creation that, disregarding the treatment of the aldehydes, isn't going to be considered groundbreaking in any way. Remaining a skin scent, for most of its duration, it isn't as bombastic or tenacious as some have reported. However, it still comes recommended to those who enjoy mature floral elegance over adolescent floral triviality.


Bohea Bohème by Mona di Orio

Year: 2016

Notes: Italian bergamot, bay leaf, Sichuan pepper, smoked juniper berry, cardamom, fir balsam, boxtree, Bohea tea, geranium, blue chamomile, osmanthus, Florentine iris, Siam benzoin, vanilla, poplar bud, hay, oak, guaiac wood, sandalwood, beeswax

Comment: Bohea Bohème is part of the Monogram Collection
Attempting to capture the essence of Bohea tea (also known as Wuyi tea), Bohea Bohème is a smoky woody-aromatic that comfortably resides in the same ballpark as Violette Fumée.

Developed by Fredrik Dalman, one doesn't discern much tea in the composition, and any florals are completely overshadowed by the smoky, spicy, woody and balsamic aspects. The juniper berry, cardamom, fir balsam and geranium grant a slight greenness to the proceedings, while the benzoin, vanilla, poplar bud, hay and beeswax altogether bequeath a sweet and warm undertow.

However, after the initial blast, its performance on the skin is extremely soft with less than four hours longevity. Furthermore, for most of its duration, the composite aroma is more akin to charred juniper berry and fenugreek. Personally, one would have preferred it to be stronger, and for the spicy and smoky attributes to be much more commanding.

Overall, it's an interesting fragrance, which severely fails to live up to the accompanying press release. If it was richer and lived up to one's original expectations, it would have received at least an extra star.


Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari & Antonio Gardoni

Year: 2016

Notes: camphor, blood orange, dried fruits, star anise, cypress, marigold, ylang-ylang, benzoin, vanilla, chocolate, civet

Comment: Cadavre Exquis is a limited edition release
Cadavre Exquis is a collaboration between Bruno Fazzolari and Bogue Profumo's Antonio Gardoni, inspired by a surrealist parlour game from the 1920s. During the game, the players take turns adding words or images to a composition (or, in this case, accords), completely unaware of what the other participants have added until the very end. With the pre-agreed olfactory theme being a gourmand, like the game, the final result for Antonio and Bruno was unpredictable and surprising.

The opening is both dusty and camphorous, with a prominent coupling of chocolate and patchouli waiting in the wings. One also discerns star anise, which heightens the dark cacao effect. With suggestive fruity flourishes of a dried or stewed nature, the composition gradually becomes less gritty and noticeably warmer, courtesy of the discreet serving of vanilla, benzoin and florals. But it's the undercurrent of civet that really grabs one's attention – accentuating a caramelised floral sweetness, while providing a sultry, animalic edge to the proceedings.

Resting on what appears to be a subdued foundation of sweet woods, it's a very successful excursion from two perfumers who previously hadn't ventured into gourmand territory. However, based on the finished product, one feels that Antonio's olfactory style shines through more than Bruno's. In addition, both projection and tenacity could have been more substantial.

Nevertheless, what saves the day is the positively unorthodox approach and a generous serving of civet. But it's good to know that genuine creativity, in niche perfumery, is still alive and well.


Baraonda by Nasomatto

Year: 2016

Notes: whiskey lactone, phenyl ethanol, ambroxan, ambrettolide, exaltolide, muscone
"Blamage is the final fragrance for the Nasomatto line."

     ~ Basenotes, March 2014

It was only three years ago when founder and perfumer, Alessandro Gualtieri, announced that Nasomatto was dead. Upon the launch of Nasomatto's tenth fragrance, Blamage, Alessandro had already turned his attention to his new line, Orto Parisi. Unfortunately, Orto Parisi hasn't been as successful as his previous brand. So, in 2016, Alessandro returned with his tail between his legs, acted as if the last couple of years didn't happen and revived the Nasomatto brand with an eleventh release, Baraonda. Ooookay...

Stylistically, Baraonda is very different from previous Nasomatto creations (especially the more popular ones). Consisting mainly of aroma chemicals, it's more of a creamy and slightly boozy rose offering, as opposed to a dark woody or resinous affair, with a diverse (and synthetic) musk cocktail foundation.

One didn't find the opening too spirituous and considered it to be rather mild. With a sweetness reminiscent of stewed apples and raisins, a creamy oak woodiness interacts with the aforementioned ambery fruitiness. The rose (or phenyl ethanol) isn't as prominent as expected but is still discernible. However, there's an underlining charred caramel aroma, for the most part, which doesn't really work in the composition's favour.

In conclusion, Baraonda strives to pass itself off as the second coming when, in reality, it's nothing more than a translucent, linear and underwhelming stylistic tribute to some of Slumberhouse's lighter fragrances. Lacking in any depth and lacklustre in its general execution, maybe Alessandro's next pretentious promo video should be of him eating his own words... with a side order of egg on face.

Both projection and longevity are respectable, but nothing astounding.


New Sibet by Slumberhouse

Year: 2016

Notes: mint, ash, carnation, iris, cistus, leather, moss, goat fur
New Sibet marks a rather surprising departure for Slumberhouse. Instead of the now predictable Serge Lutens homages, Josh Lobb has attempted to forge a new stylistic path.

The best thing about Josh's latest effort is the opening – a chalky, ashy and parched leather aroma, resting on a bed of moss and animalic musk. With a chypré aura, New Sibet calls to mind the old-fashioned floral-chypré premise of Bogue Profumo's MAAI (but crisper, with a more restrained floral heart), combined with the charred campfire woods of Tauer Perfumes' Lonestar Memories. Exhibiting hay or dried grass facets, the iris and cistus combined add a soft powdery sweetness to the proceedings. As for the animalic musk, its integration is both enchanting and convincing.

Based on the above, this dark fusion of leather, ashy woods, desiccated florals, moss and feral musk should have been a winner... and it was... until about an hour into its evolution. Up until this point, the only noticeable issue was that the composition seemed too light, especially for a parfum extrait. But, when New Sibet finally revealed its true weakness, any reservations about tenacity rapidly became a moot point.

By the mid notes, everything falls apart and it smells like an insipid glob of unidentifiable notes, which literally amount to nothing of any real significance. By the third hour, whatever's left on the skin is hardly noticeable at all. Such a structural disintegration is shocking, and one hopes that Josh hasn't adopted the same top heavy tactic currently prevalent in the fragrance industry (in other words, extremely inviting top notes but a bland and insubstantial base).

Barely being perceptible after four hours, had it continued the way it started out, one would have probably been singing its praises. But, alas, this isn't the case. Thus, one awards four stars for the first hour and two stars for what transpires afterwards. But at least Josh is trying a different approach.

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.


Mare Pacifico by Linari

Year: 2014

Notes: lemon, Spanish cypress, Russian birch leaf, ozonic notes, seaweed, mate, Turkish rose, Indonesian patchouli, kephalis, Sri Lankan sandalwood, French moss
With Mark Buxton in the driver's seat, once again, Mare Pacifico is the second bona fide aquatic release, from Linari, after 2008's Vista sul Mare.

However, Mare Pacifico ventures down more of a woody-aromatic ozonic path, as opposed to Vista sul Mare's fruity-floral ozonic premise. As a result, Mare Pacifico isn't as fresh, with its ozonic chords being less strident. The inclusion of seaweed attempts to temper the synthetic aquatic aspect and, to a certain extent, it works but not completely.

With a clean rose heart, metallic and green nuances are detected throughout its development. But what's really interesting is the addition of kephalis – an aroma chemical that possesses woody, ambery and tobacco facets, which provides a further warmth to the woody drydown. Sadly, this isn't enough to prevent the composition from walking a thin line between fabric softener territory and the soapy fragrancy of a bubble bath product.

Although it succeeds in conveying a clean aura, for an expensive niche release, one expected a lot more. Still, if forced to choose, one would opt for Mare Pacifico over the more generic-smelling Vista sul Mare.

Sillage and longevity are both above average.


Atlas by Laboratory Perfumes

Year: 2016

Notes: orange, cognac, rum, raisin, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, sea salt note, lavender, tobacco, hay, vanilla, coconut, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, vetiver, musk
Focusing primarily on tobacco, Laboratory Perfumes' fifth offering is a pleasant oriental but its lack of originality is very difficult to overlook.

While its composite aroma smacks of déjà vu, one is unable to pinpoint exactly what fragrance reminds one of Atlas. But then again, Moroccan exoticism has been done to death since Serge Lutens first pioneered it in the '90s. With boozy notes, an abundance of fruits and spices, and a woody-oriental base, some creations that are similar to Atlas include Hermès' Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé, Costamor's Tabacca, Brecourt's Harâm / Farah and Parfum d'Empire's Aziyadé, but these are merely off the top of one's head.

Drawing to a close with a sweet mélange of amber, tobacco, vanilla and woods, it's undoubtedly the best effort from this house to date. Unfortunately, based on its lack of ingenuity and inadequate staying power, one found it very difficult to justify awarding it an additional star.


Untitled #8 by Untitled

Year: 2011

Notes: narcissus, tobacco, oud, black leather, fur, civet, feral musk

Comment: Untitled #8 is a limited edition release
As part of Luckyscent's Untitled series, Untitled #8 was created by Smell Bent's Brent Leonesio. With an array of animalic notes, and sold as a limited edition perfume oil, it's reportedly "not for the faint of heart".

However, while one found it both feral and alluring, it didn't quite measure up to one's expectations. One agrees that it could be considered both vulgar and challenging, especially to those who are unacquainted with genuine animal musk, but that's about as far as it goes. Yes, Untitled #8 is indeed a skanky and potentially polarising creation (such that Serge Lutens's Muscs Koublaï Khän could be considered extremely tame by comparison), but it does have some noticeable flaws.

To begin with, it's not as natural as originally anticipated, resulting in a lack of complexity. Upon the opening, a generous serving of civet is clearly evident but it seems to be of the artificial variety (known as civetone). While civetone serves as a respectable synthetic substitute, it still lacks the astringent faecal aspect and sweet floral underpinning of natural civet absolute. Then there's the 'feral musk' accord, which smells like a well-integrated cocktail of musk aroma chemicals. From this, one can clearly discern the presence of tonquitone – a synthetic replacement for natural deer musk, which possesses a metallic and musky caramel aroma. Beyond that, any barnyard attributes are heavily reliant on the tobacco, leather and oud.

With initial expectations of a dark, brash and unapologetic skankiness, it's more of a timid animalic musk, with leathery nuances and a caramelised sweetness. Now, this could largely be due to its oil base, but that in itself raises some questions and concerns – ranging from the type of carrier oil used and its shelf-life, to the official perfume concentration. Unfortunately, the absence of such important information doesn't really help matters at all. And while one acknowledges that perfume oils aren't always sillage monsters, one still found Untitled #8 to be lacking some much needed bite. In summary, it isn't as raw, animalic or potent as it could have been.

Providing moderate tenacity, it has great potential as a layering agent. But, regardless of its shortcomings, one would definitely recommend Untitled #8 over many of the third-rate animalic musk concoctions currently being churned out by niche houses – including (but not limited to) CB I Hate Perfume's CB Musk, Parfum d'Empire's Musc Tonkin, Nishane's Afrika Olifant and Les Liquides Imaginaires' Peau de Bete.


CB Musk by CB I Hate Perfume

Year: 2006

Notes: Undisclosed

Comment: CB Musk is part of the CB Reinvention Series
Described as an all-natural rendition of Tonkin musk (even though the owner and perfumer, Christopher Brosius, has admitted to never having smelt the real thing), CB Musk is an interesting olfactory experiment that doesn't quite hit the mark.

Initially, one detects a soft and mellow butteriness, with some mellow fruity, woody and smoky components. To one's nose, there are certainly no overt faecal or barnyard attributes as anticipated (although, a vague animalic underlining is only discernible when hovering extremely close to the area of application). Overall, it's a relatively easy to wear and somewhat vanillic musk creation, with a slightly powdery drydown that reveals floral, rubbery and salty facets. But, as previously mentioned, there's nothing substantially animalic or raunchy about it.

With its release date being over ten years ago, it's probably been reformulated at least once and could explain one's grave disappointment with it. After all, stock photos of CB Musk show the juice as a darkish brown, while the sample one is basing this review on is more of a pale yellow hue. Based on this alone, one can only gather that what's available now isn't what CB I Hate Perfume's founder originally formulated.

Geared more towards those who are easily offended by hardcore feral aromas, sillage is minimal with longevity of around three to four hours.


Ambra di Venezia by Montgomery Taylor

Year: 1998

Notes: bergamot, lime, mandarin, mango, French narcissus, jasmine, sandalwood

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
While learning about the art of glass making, in Venice, Montgomery Taylor was inspired to compose Ambra di Venezia after viewing "a canopy of amber skies". With the assistance of perfumer Rayda Vega, the two worked together to create a fragrance to encapsulate that very sunset, along with Montgomery's other memories of his time in Venice.

Released in 1998, one is unsure as to how many times it has been reformulated, as what greets one's nose is anything but an amber scent. Instead, what one initially discerns is a somewhat artificial citrus blast, followed by a touch of mango and some white florals. The opening is off-putting, at first, with its lemon detergent assault and saccharine-like sweetness, but this quickly settles to allow the white florals to fully emerge. Although not listed, there's also a creamy vanillic aspect to the composition that possesses a hint of coconut, thus lending an additional tropical subtlety to the proceedings.

Sadly, by the time it reaches the heart, it becomes thin, soapy and hollow. Personally, it's at this point where a strong ambery or resinous presence could have compensated for the slightly unpleasant opening. Resting on a bed of sandalwood, the drydown is a mellow creamy woodiness, with faint floral flourishes. One can also detect cedar-like nuances, during its final moments on the skin.

Ultimately, the name is a complete misnomer and anyone expecting a fully-fledged amber offering will be sorely disappointed. And while there are the odd pleasant moments, one is unable to mentally set aside the abrasive citrus introduction. Based on all the above, as well as its soft and underwhelming performance on the skin, one is unable to proclaim Ambra di Venezia as an underrated and obscure gem.