Dzing! – Dzing opens with light citrus notes (the ginger?) played against the relative earthy and animalic saffron. This seems to lead to a leather accord similar to that in Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, but toned down to a whisper. Very unique. [**1/2]

Dzongkha – This opens with spices, sweet lychee, and restrained flowers. The drydown is creamy and relaxing, incense mixing with woods and a soft leather accord. This is very peaceful. [**]

l’Eau d’Ambre – A unique interpretation of amber, this scent actually does resemble ‘amber water’, in direct contrast to the many scents that present versions of a rich, indulgent amber. Where those shout, this whispers. The amber itself is powdery, not too sweet, and elegant. [**1/2]

l’Eau de l’Artisan – Opens with green lemon and a hint of mint. Some green notes join in, and a slight marine accord seems to add some freshness, but overall this wouldn’t stand out from the crowd of fresh/AdC style scents. Longevity is a bit below average. [*1/2]

Fou d’Absinthe – Fou d’Absinthe opens with a spicy green accord that immediately brings to mind the fleeting topnotes of Amouage Memoir Man. But where it leads to a rich, resinous incense there, here it is treated in a cooler fashion, accented by spices. The absinthe accord leads to a soft, dry bed of pine needles, very reminiscent of walking in a forest. [***]

Timbuktu – A slightly dry green and spicy aroma provides the introduction here. This is followed by an earthy, creamy blend of myrrh and patchouli, and rounded off with incense and vetiver. Awesome. [***]

Patchouli Patch – The name here is very accurate. This opens with a straightforward, very natural patchouli. A bit of vanilla softens the patchouli as it dries down, but does not defeat the scent’s assumed purpose. [**1/2]


June Top Ten

1 – Odin 07 Tanoke – I finally picked up a bottle of this. Smokey woody incense that reminds me of the forests both in the Eastern Sierra and at higher altitudes in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lovely.

2 – Kilian Incense Oud – Refined incense and an oudh accord that contains no actual oudh. This is very versatile.

3 – Givenchy Gentleman – This has a fair amount of patchouli, but is so much more than just another patchouli scent. Both refined and adventurous, I can barely imagine how much more interesting the vintage juice would be.

4 – Montale Full Incense – This performs nicely in warmer weather.

5 – Lorenzo Villoresi Uomo – Another immensely versatile fragrance.

6 – Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure – This is basically everything I wished for in an olibanum-based fragrance and then some. Very lively, concentrated, expressive and natural.

7 – Kenzo Tokyo – Tokyo reminds me of Tokyo, but not in the way that Kenzo’s advertising copy reads. Instead of an undefined swirl of unfamiliar scents, each sniff takes me back to a different, but very vivid memory of my own time in the city. It always hints of quiet and unknown adventure lurking in every corner (very different from the city in which I currently live, where loud boredom waddles everywhere).

8 – Green Irish Tweed – Another supremely versatile fragrance. Among other things, this served me very well for an orchestral performance.

9 – Parfums de Nicolai New York – I just got a bottle of the reformulated juice, and while I miss the opulence of the older version’s base, the new version is actually a great warm-weather scent. Who know? It’s like magic… now to find another bottle of the older formulation.

10 – Aventus – Changing my spraying locations a bit helped a lot with olfactory fatigue, but I still don’t get too much of the base in this. It’s just random whiffs of smokey, woody pineapple. And I’ve got absolutely no problem with that.

Arabian Nights by Kilian

Kilian’s Arabian Nights collection consists of four compositions that highlight different facets of oudh. While the broad strokes of these compositions are fairly traditional in Middle Eastern perfumery, Kilian’s interpretations are marked by a distinctly French elegance and the house’s hallmark of exquisite blending.

Amber Oud – This opens with a resinous amber, more rich and refined than sweet. The oud is used with an extremely light touch, adding just a hint of dark dryness around the corners of the amber. As with other Kilian compositions, the genius lies in the blending and the quality of the ingredients, although this doesn’t stand out from the crowd of ambers despite that. [*1/2]

Incense Oud – A very refined, elegant incense is the star of this masterfully blended fragrance. The incense is subtly spicy, with a faint hint of rose. It’s based on a subtle oudh accord, although this composition contains no actual oudh. The oudh accord is a blend of patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, cistus, musks, labdanum and a number of additional components, but they all come together in such a way that none of the notes readily stands out on its own. Incense Oud is one of my favorite fragrances. [***]

Pure Oud – Another restrained offering from Kilian, the opening has a slightly smoky quality that becomes more subdued over time as the medicinal and woody aspects of the oud come out. Very interesting. [**1/2]

Rose Oud – A soft, slightly sweet rose provides a nice welcome to this scent. With a bit of time, it opens up, developing more body. The oud enters quietly, balancing the sweetness of the rose before lending its dryness to the base of the scent. [**]

Etat Libre d’Orange Eloge du Traitre

Easily one of my two or three favorite fougeres (the other – Penhaligon’s Sartorial – being an almost polar opposite in style… honorable mention to Caron Yatagan), this opens with very masculine green notes: bay leaf, pine and artemsia, all framed by spices. By the time the jasmine becomes noticeable, this already has achieved admirable depth. The jasmine adds a slight creaminess and a hint of subversiveness to the package. As the scent dries down, patchouli and musk carry it on. [***]

A new addition to Dior Collection Privee

Dior Oud Ispahan – Opens with a broad rose, which seems to dominate the drydown. The rose mingles nicely with the oudh base, although the oudh is little more than a whisper. It’s similar to the accord in Leather Oud, but sweetened with an amber accord. The patchouli comes to the fore as the drydown progresses, but there is little to differentiate this from other compositions in this vein. Perhaps what this has over Montale’s Black Aoud is more sweetness and transparency, with a less harsh synthetic oudh base. There are also some similarities to MFK’s Lumiere Noire Pour Homme, although there the rose is greener and less cloyingly sweet. [*1/2]

Lorenzo Villoresi

Acqua di Colonia – Villoresi’s interpretation of the classic ‘cologne water’ takes a distinctly herbal bent over the usual citrus-based formula. From the opening, a medley of citrus is joined by lavender and elemi, and while the drydown is straightforward, it continues the theme of herbs down to the musk base. Wonderful. [***]
Incensi – Opens green and mildly soapy (elemi and galbanum) with a faint cinnamon note that grows over time and is lightly framed by ginger and labdanum. As this dries down, the cinnamon is increasingly supported by the frankincense. The effect of the cinnamon is to heighten the citric notes in the frankincense, while dustier resins like myrrh and labdanum play a quiet supporting role. Very interesting. [**]
Musk – Perhaps the most feminine and elegant out of the Villoresis I’ve tried. Soft floral notes and light spices and resins pave the way to a very soft musky rose, framed by a variety of woods. [**1/2]
Piper Nigrum – Black Pepper. Green notes mingle with citrus and spices before the namesake note enters the picture. This is never overwhelmingly spicy, with the pepper and other spices and herbs tempered by resins (olibanum, myrrh and styrax), amber and woods. [**1/2]
Uomo – This is one of the most amazing scents around. It is never overbearing, but there is so much going on that it seems to be alive. Uomo opens similar to AdC, with citrus adding life to lavender and elemi, this time joined by some spices as well. Green and earthy notes join in as Uomo dries down, and the base, while seemingly dominated by a lively vetiver, has so much going on I still haven’t deciphered everything. In many ways, this can be seen as a sibling of Acqua di Colonia. Where AdC whispers of sunshine, white beaches and blue oceans, Uomo would be at home in any situation. [***]
Vetiver – I have to be honest, after several tries, I still do not understand Vetiver. I actually get very little vetiver in this composition, which, to my nose, smells like curry. I will have to give it another try. [???]
Yerbamate – This is a soft green scent, with hay and grass framing the central mate (tea). This maintains its focus on the mate and green notes throughout the drydown, where these are joined by soft resins and woods. [**1/2]


Hermessence is a line of fragrances from Hermes that follows a somewhat minimalist aesthetic through airy, transparent compositions (although Ambre Narguile seems to be an exception here).

Ambre Narguile – This immediately smells like some freshly baked holiday treats covered in cinnamon. The spices are quickly joined by apple (think apple pie), a soft incense, a subtle amber that soon comes to the fore, and a touch of rum and tobacco. In one sense, it feels a bit like Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille in a bakery. Similarly linear and just as comforting. [**]

Poivre Samarcande – Lemon and pepper dance about before being joined by a dash of cumin. This quickly blend quickly settles down over a soft cedar base. Doesn’t shout after its opening notes, and feels very airy and open. [**]

Santal Massoia – A soft fig leads quickly to a whispering take on sandalwood, softened with coconut. Compared to the scratchiness of Le Labo’s Santal 33 or even Diptyque’s Tam Dao, this is like a massage. Very understated and transparent. [**]

Vetiver Tonka – A light sweet orange blends with salty green vetiver and sweet tonka beans. This is miles away from Tom Ford’s charmless Grey Vetiver. [**1/2]

Aloes of Ish

Aloes of Ish provide a wide range of affordable mukhallats and attars. I initially ran across them after encountering oudh as an accord in a handful of western fragrances (most notably, Kilian’s Incense Oud and Montale’s Black Aoud), and between these experiences and some of what I had previously read, my curiosity was piqued. I subsequently learned about brands that were previously unfamiliar to me: ASAQ, Arabian Oud, Swiss Arabian, Ajmal, Surrati… Each seemed to have an endless selection of products at all sorts of price points, and this was very intimidating, so I shelved my oudh interest for awhile. Then I ran across Aloes of Ish, which has its own fairly extensive line. I selected two, enjoyed them, and then tried two more. Now that I’ve got a baseline, I might be ready to sample from other lines. As far as these scents go, I find them very enjoyable, and they’re very affordable as far as these sorts of fragrances go. I’ll probably try more as time goes on.

Surrati Black Oudh – The most affordable entry in the Ish lineup, this attar is actually produced by Surrati, and is somewhat of an homage to Montale’s Black Aoud. In the Montale spray perfume, the rose is very pure and clean, floating above the somewhat linear oudh accord. In Surrati’s version, the two are slightly more blended – in a way, muddled. Black musk adds an interesting element to the base without making the scent animalic. This may lack the longevity and some of projection of the Montale, but it comes across as very natural. [**1/2]

Royale – This is easily the driest and most savory of the attars I have from this source. The first few minutes or so are a bit funky: intense saffron backed by something dark, dry and brooding. As more time passes, the veil is drawn back from this presence. The blend of amber, oudh and musk becomes less monolithic, with distinct aspects of each lending to the overall feel – the amber softening the rich oudh, and the musk adding a slight animalic element. Longevity is about average. [**1/2]

Black Oudh de Ish – This is a variation of a fairly straightforward theme – rose and oudh (and sometimes a black musk). In this version, a creamy sandalwood and an earthy vetiver are added to the blend, grounding the central notes provided by the rose and oudh. The rose is dominant at first, blending with the oudh to create a bouquet akin to that of a well aged Barolo. As the drydown persists, the woods and musk become more apparent, giving this more depth than its inspiration. Longevity is just slightly above average, but the ride is amazing. [***]

Dragon’s Claw – This might be the richest of these. Dragon’s Claw begins with the sweet Taifi rose, which mingles with the sharp aspects of the oudh. The drydown is enriched by patchouli and musk, leaving no real sharp edges anywhere. [***]

The Fragrance Shop – Part 2

Continued from Part 1, but this time focusing on a couple of their original blends and single notes. My only relationship with this company is as a customer.


Earth – Spicy and green, very reminiscent of tea tree oil or eucalyptus, probably from the vetiver and cedar. Dries down to smooth woods. [*1/2]

Jivako – Subtle citrus over a beautiful blend of suede, amber and woods. [**1/2]

Teak – Soapy topnotes – lilac, rose and violet freshened by the lime. The base is rich, smooth and unobtrusive. [**1/2]

Tunisian Opium – Sweet orange and jasmine over a patchouli and amber base. Slightly sweet, and very rich. [**1/2]

Single notes

Almadina Musk – Green top-notes, smells like sage and underbrush. This would blend well, but on its own doesn’t feel complete. [*1/2]

East Indian Vetiver – Grassy and fresh, but with a very distinctive earthiness. [**]

Kasmir Patchouli – This is very deep and chocolaty, like the earthy patchouli in PG Cuir d’Iris. There’s a nice lift to this, despite its inherent heaviness. Adds interest to Almadina Musk. On its own, slightly reminiscent of freshly wet dirt near a mountain stream or after a soft rain. [**]

Patchouli Wood – A hint of bright patchouli over the darker, earthier Kasmir Patchouli. The addition of sandalwood lends a creamy characteristic to the base, making it more accessible. [**1/2]

Woody Sandalwood – Spicy and slightly green topnotes over rich, creamy sandalwood. Reminiscent of a smoother, more elegant rendition of Diptyque’s Tam Dao. [**1/2]




Bel Ami (reforumulation) – The original Bel Ami has a reputation for being centered around leather. My understanding is that the reformulated version has dramatically toned down the leathery and animalic notes in the blend. The resulting composition is an urbane and refined masculine. Lemon is framed by spices and herbs, leading to a musky-leathery-woody drydown. [**1/2]

Terre d’Hermes Parfum – Top-notes are dominated by sweet orange, which is offset by a dry mineral-vetiver accord. [***]

Terre d’Hermes EdT – My introduction to Terre d’Hermes was a few minutes before going out for a run. A sweet orange dominated the top, drying down to a very flinty, sharp vetiver accord. It complemented the trees and shrubs I ran by, and totally bloomed after I returned. The flintiness of the vetiver took awhile to grow on me, but this is a great fragrance. [**1/2]