Fragrance Recommendations: Leathers, Vetivers, Fougères & More

Source: mf.techbang.com

Source: mf.techbang.com

Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.

Please keep all of that in mind when you read over the suggestions. Also, my list here will skew towards the male side for the first half of the post (though not entirely), while the second half contains names that are almost all unisex, in my opinion. The list won’t be all-encompassing, won’t cover every good scent within a certain genre, and will be as much of a “speed list” as someone with my OCD and verboseness can manage. So, sometimes, I’ll avoid detailed descriptions, though I’ll provide links for you to read the full review if you’re interested. The goal is to give nutshell summaries of as many names within different fragrance families as I can manage, and focused on the things that I end up recommending again and again.

CLEAN, CRISP, AROMATIC & DISCREET COLOGNES:

GS03 via Fragrantica

GS03 via Fragrantica

Anyone who has read me for any amount of time knows that this is not a genre I cherish or seek to explore in-depth, so I don’t consider myself to be an expert on it in the slightest. However, one cologne stands out far above the others that I’ve tried, it’s a scent I’ve recommended often, and it has received a very positive reaction from those who actually do love the genre. In fact, it seems to be very popular in general from what I read on various sites. The fragrance is GS03, created by Geza Schoen for a German brand whose name I can only spell with assistance, Biehl.Parfumkunstwerke. (Yes, that’s how it’s officially spelt, complete with periods in-between the name.)

As the review linked above explains in further detail, GS03 opens as crisp as the Alpine snow with cool juniper giving a gin-like vibe, vetiver, neroli, iris, moss, cedar, musk, and a touch of castoreum. (There is also Geza Schoen’s favorite note, ISO E Super, the aromachemical he made famous in Escentric’s Molecules 01.) GS03’s smooth finish is like clean suede sprayed with fresh, white musk, and just a touch of musky warmth. The combination yields an olfactory effect rather like warm, heated, velvety skin right out of the shower. GS03 brings a modern edge to the classical cologne, is so hugely popular that it frequently sells out fast, and is always the first thing I mention when someone asks for a fragrance in this genre. In America, GS03 is typically sold at Luckyscent and OsswaldNYC, but the former is back-ordered at the time and the latter is sold out. (Osswald takes down a fragrance entry from their website when they’ve run out of something, then puts it back up when they have it back in stock. GS03 is not shown at this time, so they’re out, perhaps because they have a sale on the entire Biehl line at this moment.)

Other names: Etat Libre‘s Fils de Dieu is not a true cologne, but it appeals to those who like unisex, citrusy clean, fresh scents with a gourmand, sweet side. There is also SHL 777‘s 2022 Generation Homme if you want a high-end version of a clean, citrusy cologne with woodiness, so long as you don’t mind a lot of ISO E Super. (I must say that I don’t personally think this one is very good but guys who love this genre, not to mention the whole “bro” crowd, seem to think it’s fantastic as a casual but polished, fresh scent. Hmmph. I’d recommend Biehl’s GS03 far, far more.)

For women, if you want the cleanest, softest, freshest, most discreet scent imaginable, with a heaping dose of aldehydes, high quality, smoothness, and far greater refinement than a commercial fragrance in this genre, then try LM Parfums Chemise Blanche. It’s not my thing (not even remotely!), but I recommend it to people who don’t want to smell of perfume, while actually wearing it. (I don’t get it.) That group seems to love Chemise Blanche. It includes one of my oldest, dearest friends who is the most difficult person on earth when it comes to fragrance, and who typically responds to my every suggestion with: “it’s too, too sweet,” “it’s too strong,” “it’s not clean or fresh enough,” or “it’s overly feminine and flowery.” But Chemise Blanche swept her off her feet, it’s the only thing she wears, and she’s utterly obsessed with it. If it fits her demanding criteria, other women who love this sort of thing might find Chemise Blanche ideal, too. In America, you can find this at Luckyscent or OsswaldNYC.

LEATHERS:

M in its various sizes. Source: Luckyscent.

M in its various sizes. Source: Luckyscent.

Luxury Leather: Regular readers know my love for Hard Leather, but I rarely recommend it because it’s truly not a scent for everyone and the animalics will put off people new to niche perfumery. It actually may take second place to something which might be my absolute favorite “leather” around, except for the fact that I personally see it as an ambered oriental. Well, to be precise, I think it’s a chypre-oriental hybrid that simply happens to have an utterly glorious leather middle phase. But, to everyone else, Roja Dove’s “M” for Puredistance is all about the leather, with many calling it the best fragrance ever made in the genre. I certainly agree on its beauty, and I love its long finish where it ripples as a molten, ambered oriental with unbelievable smoothness, refinement, and depth. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and something I wear when I want to feel ultra-sophisticated but also indulge myself with luxury. Ignore the marketing directed towards men and mentions of Aston Martins; I think women can wear M perfectly well, and I know quite a lot who do. Unfortunately, “M” is steep in price, but a 17.5 ml travel size is quite manageable and the perfume is an extrait in concentration. In short, when I make suggestions to people who want to try a leather, “M” is absolutely the first name on my list — each and every time.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Skanky but Refined Leather: Roja Dove‘s Fetish Pour Homme Extrait for his own brand takes “M” and gives it a kick up the rear-end, sometimes literally with a rather leathery, musky castoreum that skewed too much to the… er… rear-end side of things for me personally, but has won over men by the legion. Some people who love “M”  actually think Fetish is even better, perhaps because it doesn’t feel quite so classical in style.

Cuir Mauresque.

Cuir Mauresque.

Semi-Skanky, Classical Floral Leather: Serge LutensCuir Mauresque takes spicy, semi-animalic, Taureg Moroccan leather, slathers it with indolic orange blossoms, drizzles on some civet, and lets it percolate before ending with a classical, somewhat powdery, drydown finish that is vaguely reminiscent of a diluted version of vintage Bal à Versailles. I love, own, and wear Cuir Mauresque, so I mentioned it to someone who wrote to me just today, but I brought up the name with great hesitation because I think it’s been reformulated. There is a plastic-y vibe to the flowers now, the camphorous blackness sometimes skews a bit bug-spray-ish (which it never did before), and everything feels a little… off. So, if you can find Cuir Mauresque in older form, try it! Other people like Dior‘s Cuir Cannage which adds an iris-y, make-up powder quality to the same combination, but it feels like a less interesting copy to me, and I tend to get huffy when people copy Oncle Serge with lesser results. Then again, I think Oncle Serge has screwed with Cuir Mauresque so I’m not happy with him, Cuir Cannage is very similar, and you may enjoy it even more than the Lutens if you love powdery iris.

Skanky Spiced Sweet Leather: Histoires de Parfums 1740. Inspired by the Marquis de Sade (which should tell you something), 1740 requires some patience in the early moments, in addition to a strong love for cumin, clove and immortelle, but it’s a totally lusty, sexy leather that isn’t actually quite so debauched as the name might lead you to believe. (It’s hardly as skanky or erotic as Papillon’s chypre, Salome, for example.) A lot of men love 1740, but so do women.

Tsar Alexander II, whose bespoke, custom scent was Violettes du Czar. Painting by Ivan Winberg, via liveinternet.ru

Tsar Alexander II, whose bespoke, custom scent was Violettes du Czar. Painting: Ivan Winberg via liveinternet.ru

Powdery, Floral, Smoky Leather: Oriza L. Legrand‘s Violettes du Czar. Iris-y powderiness, violets, and fresh cleanness segue into smoky Russian leather. This was a fragrance worn by two Romanov tsars and there’s been barely any changes made to the original formula, so it’s naturally very classical and old-fashioned in style, but it’s also a very good “clean floral musk” that slowly transforms into a warrior’s leather in its drydown. It’s unisex and suitable for work, but you have to like some powder and cleanness.

Powdery, Floral Leather: Cuir Ottoman by Parfums d’Empire takes the opposite trajectory. It begins with polished, cool, calfskin leather that is a bit smoky but smells primarily like extremely expensive Italian shoes, then turns into iris-y suede leather, before ending as the fluffiest of soft clouds made from iris, tonka vanilla, and the merest wisp of jasmine. It’s extremely refined, smooth, soft and unisex. The powder is a fraction of what it is in Violettes du Czar’s beginning, and it’s not as clean or crisp. The leather is not the smoky Russian variety, though a few people have reported a butch, tarry side to Cuir Ottoman’s beginning. Either way, it’s an extremely popular take on the genre, but be aware that people say Parfums d’Empire reformulated all its scents when it launched the new bottles/packaging last year.

Leather Cologne with Vetiver & Incense: La Via Del Profumo‘s Grezzo d’Eleganza by AbdesSalaam Attar opens as a very old-school leather with an aromatic, herbal and fresh cologne vibe, but the leather is also smoky, tarry and dark, wrapped up with incense, coated dark balsamic resins, accompanied by woods, and later immersed in smoky vetiver with a touch of rose. Grezzo was made for an Italian designer, and is a very refined, all-natural take on the genre. It feels simultaneously very ’80s and, yet, very timeless. It’s not a powerhouse in sillage, so it’s quite work appropriate.

Soleil de Jeddah. Photo: Roberto Greco.

Soleil de Jeddah. Photo: Roberto Greco.

Fruity Smoky Leather: I don’t know how to begin describing SHL 777‘s Soleil de Jeddah because it has such a range of notes, but I recommend it to people who are looking for a richer and long-lasting alternative to Creed’s cult-hit Aventus, or who want a smoky birch leather with a super-bright, fresh, glowing beginning and minor animalic muskiness. For the most part, the main bouquet on my skin is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of oranges, green mango/kiwi/pineapple, apricots, lemon curd, jammy patchouli, and chamomile, all over a smoky leather base made up of styrax, birch, and isobutyl quinoline. Iris and vanilla play a very minor part, but the mimosa and jasmine included in the scent never show up on my skin. I think Soleil de Jeddah skews a bit masculine in focus; I know a handful of women who love it, but far more men. And I definitely think it’s better (not to mention stronger and more complex) than Aventus which similarly combines tart fruits over tarry, smoky, birch leather.

VETIVERS:

Luxury Vetiver: I have not reviewed Roja Dove’s Vetiver Extrait, but any hardcore vetiver lover should have this one at the top of their sample list. It’s as though every one of vetiver’s many facets were put on display, laced with fresh, crisp, citrusy tonalities, chypre-ish mossy plushness, and a quiet touch of spices. Very nicely done.

Source: Chanel.com

Source: Chanel.com

Smoky, Dark Refined Vetiver: Sycomore from Chanel‘s Exclusifs Collection is centered on a smoldering vetiver that grows in the inner-most reaches of a dark forest, absorbing their dry woodiness, and bearing the faintest whispers of earthiness and leatheriness underneath. Smooth and refined, many consider this to be the most polished, elegant vetiver in this particular sub-genre. Others, however, prefer Lalique’s much cheaper Encre Noire which vast numbers of people say is virtually identical. I haven’t tried it to know because Encre Noire is high on the list of fragrances with the most ISO E Supercrappy, so you can pretty much guess my views on that one. Plus, I find it hard to believe that something you can buy for $29.99 at Target could match the quality and smoothness of a Chanel Exclusif, but get samples of both if you’re on a budget (and if you have no ISO E Super sensitivities), and then decide for yourself. As most of you know, The Exclusifs collection is typically exclusive to Chanel boutiques, though a few department stores that have dedicated Chanel mini-boutiques inside also carry the line.

Boozy, Smoky, Dark & Old-School Vetiver: Oriza L. Legrand’s Vetiver Royal Bourbon was made more than 100 years ago, and it’s as classical as you can get, but its smoky vetiver comes with the enjoyable twist of boozy cognac and leather. As a whole, it’s well done, smooth, and relatively affordable for the size/quality.

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Apocalyptic Smoky, Leather Vetiver: Jovoy Private Label. I brought up Mad Max in my review, and that should say it all. A recent commentator wrote that the comparison was very apt, which should also tell you something. Private Label is an equal partnership between tarry birch leather and smoky vetiver that hardcore lovers of both notes should try. Jovoy fragrances tend to be discreet in sillage after their first few hours, so I typically recommend this one to those who want a quieter but still butch, smoky leather-vetiver that they could wear to the office. Well, some offices….

Apocalyptic, Whisky, Smoky Tarry Vetiver: Almost just as apocalyptic at times but hardly discreet is Profumum’s powerhouse, Fumidus, which has an utterly spectacular debut straight out of the Scottish highlands. Or, rather, the Islay isles, since Fumidus opens with single-malt scotch like Laphraoig splashed all over the vetiver. Salt, peat, mossy, and earthiness are joined by smoky birch which billows gusts of blackness, leather, oiliness, and even a brief hint of diesel at first (but it works so well with the rest of the mix). All too soon, alas, Fumidus turns into pure smoky vetiver, set on fire with birch tar and leather in a way that even exceeds Private Label’s inferno. It’s incredibly hard-core, has too much birch smoke for many, but is beloved by a small minority, particularly those who find it transports them straight back to Scotland.

Oakmoss, Chypre-ish Vetiver: AbdesSalaam Attar’s Oakmoss/”Tarzan” is actually not an oakmoss chypre but a vetiver fragrance. The vetiver simply happens to grow near a small patch of oakmoss, both warmed by the heat of the sun on day that falls  between summer and autumn. This is a warm, soft, plush vetiver with a delicate citrusy crispness at the start and a quiet hint of mossy greenness. It’s all-natural so it has a discreet sillage suitable for the most conservative work environments.

FOUGÈRES & AROMATICS:

Fougères are perhaps the oldest fragrance family, and are traditionally aromatic in nature with lavender, herbs, vetiver, coumarin, bergamot, oakmoss, and sometimes geranium. However, there are some great fragrances that fall within a sub-sect of this genre, the oriental fougère, which combines warmer notes, some spices, and a touch of sweetness. I’m getting over my lavender issues, but I’m still not the sort to actively seek out the more traditional cologne genre. Still, there some names that I suggest to others, in addition to several oriental fougères that I like myself.

Crisp, Cool, Clean Fougère: I haven’t reviewed it but I’ve tested it, and if you want a very clean fougère Parfums MDCI’s Invasion Barbare is one to consider. It’s got too much clean musk for me personally and feels pointedly sharp on my skin at times (making me wonder if my sample is a reformulated version), but Invasion Barbare has a devoted, passionate following amongst lovers of the genre, especially if they prefer a cologne without a lot of sweetness.

1725 Casanova HdPCreamy, Semi-Gourmand Fougère: Histoires de Parfums 1725 (Casanova) is quite similar to Invasion Barbare, to the point that discussions of one fragrance inevitably bring up the other. However, 1725 is an oriental fougère that skews warmer and softer, contains a touch of amber, and has a semi-gourmand streak with some delicious almond cream. I hadn’t gotten over all my lavender phobia when I reviewed it but, even back then, I was tempted and torn. Now, at this point, I wear 1725 on rare occasion myself. It’s fully unisex, both in my opinion and many others, perhaps because of that semi-gourmand streak of creamy almonds. Bottom line, it’s a lovely fragrance that I strongly recommend.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Cologne to Gourmand Fougère: Profumum’s Antico Caruso opens as a purely classical, citrusy aromatic cologne, complete with barbershop notes, but it quickly transforms into another creamy fougère that a number of women like as well, thanks to a rich, silky mix of creamy almonds with a light vanilla mousse. Given the opening, it won’t feel so unisex right off, but give it 90 minutes and you will see. Regardless of gender, it’s a great, modern take on the clean, crisp fougère genre that will appeal to people who also want some sweetness, warmth, and a few gourmand elements in their colognes. However, like most Profumum scents, it can be a powerhouse in sillage, so you may want to be careful with application if you work in a very conservative office environment.

Legendary Fougère with Some Skank: Jicky. The name should say it all. The Guerlain legend. Creamy lavender ice-cream that has the clarity of moonlight, drizzled I with drops of civet, and more. There are olfactory differences between the various concentrations, but my review is for the EDP version which may be like Goldilocks’ porridge in terms of falling midway between the EDT and Extrait extremes, both in terms of smoothness and the sharpness of the synthetic civet.

FLORAL WOODY MUSK/ORIENTAL WOODY MUSK:

Source: parfumdepub.com

Source: parfumdepub.com

I’m inventing this fragrance family hybrid solely as an excuse to talk about Guerlain‘s fantastic L’Instant de Guerlain and because I’m never sure what category it really and truly belongs to, particularly as there are two versions with slightly different scent profiles, and each version tends to go beyond the typical boundaries of one single genre. (Both versions are covered in that review.) I end up recommending either one or the other depending on the person’s individual taste and style, but both are excellent fragrances.

L’Instant (nicknamed “LIDG“) is an EDT that opens with a typical citrusy fougère accord, giving it a brief resemblance to a traditional cologne, but that doesn’t last long. Slowly, spices, sandalwood and milky tea join the party, then a light touch of jasmine. After a while, L’Instant EDT turns into a veil of jasmine over lemony, spiced, milky Chai, and then transforms into a genderless floral woody musk. At that point, a light sprinkling of soft cocoa/chocolate is added to the mix. All of it is discreet, light, and soft.

L'Instant Eau Extreme (or EDP), LIDGE. Source: perfumeon.com

L’Instant Eau Extreme (or EDP), LIDGE. Source: perfumeon.com

L’Instant Eau Extreme is the EDP version commonly nicknamed “LIDGE,” and it’s different, especially at the start. It’s richer, deeper, bolder, stronger, and more oriental, and its citrusy opening brims with dark spices that have a bite (like star anise). Equally spicy, brown-green patchouli appears right from the start, along with chocolate and the smoky notes of leaves burning in an autumnal bonfire from elemi wood. There is milky Chai, just like in LIDG, but very little floral musk. It eventually turns into a creamy patchouli with a toasted, nutty caramel-vanilla aspect to it, flecked with slivers of jasmine, tea, and woodiness.

LIDGE is fantastic, in my opinion, but both fragrances are very well done. They simply fit different note preferences and styles, especially in terms of sillage. Neither fragrance is a powerhouse, but LIDG is particularly discreet and short-lived. Also, I must add that I think either one could be worn by women, but particularly LIDG which skews more floral in nature with its jasmine. (I wish Guerlain would cease its gender-based marketing, because it makes women shy away from certain fragrances as a result, but that’s an issue for another day.)

Bottom line, when men ask for recommendations for a smooth, polished, very refined scent with citrusy freshness, some spices and woodiness, but not too much crispness, freshness, or cleanness, L’Instant is what I bring up.

EVERYTHING ELSE — ORIENTALS, WOODS, SMOKE, AMBERS & MORE:

When people ask for bold, dark, oriental, or ambered scents, and they don’t give a damn about either office-appropriate sillage or fresh, aromatic, clean bouquets, I tend to make the same suggestions again and again. Again, keep in mind that it depends on what the person has told me that they are looking for and what notes they either love or hate, but the names that come up the most often are the following (in random order):

Kalemat Amber concentrated oil. Source: rania-perfumes.ru

Kalemat Amber concentrated oil. Source: rania-perfumes.ru

1) Arabian Oud’s Kalemat. Contrary to the company’s name, there is no oud in Kalemat which is a fantastic, molten, super-rich, honey-slathered amber with a large sillage scent cloud, warmth, sweetness, woody/incense aspects, and varying amounts of rose as well. Kalemat Amber Fragrance Oil is even better, and utterly magnificent in its richness. U.S. retailers don’t carry the brand, but you can find full bottles of both on US eBay, and samples of Kalemat EDP. (I’ve never seen samples of Kalemat Amber oil, alas.) Regardless of your location, though, Arabian Oud London has a special deal for my readers for any fragrance oil or attar. Simply write to them at the contact information given in the Kalemat Amber Oil review, and put “Kafkaesque” in the subject-line of your email. Arabian Oud has arranged something with a private courier service to get around Britain’s Royal Mail issues and can send you 1-2 fragrances from London for about $25 or so in shipping. (I forget the exact amount now, but write to Mr. Chowdhury, and he’ll help you in any way you need. The 1-2 fragrance limit is really a matter of weight and customs. The fragrance needs to be under a certain weight/size. Full details are in that Kalemat Amber post.)

Source: Rania J. website.

Source: Rania J. website.

2) Rania J.‘s Ambre Loup. This is a fragrance I love and ended up buying for myself, despite an exhausting longevity on my skin. It’s a dark, rich, dense, spicy, lightly sweetened tobacco-amber bomb that always gets compliments. I think it skews more towards the tobacco than the amber, but someone I know thinks it smells like opium. (The drug, not the famous perfume.) Either way, it’s going to depend on individual skin chemistry. All I can say is that the more I wear it, the more I find it irresistible and addictive, and I think it may be one of my top 3 discoveries this year.

3) Slumberhouse‘s Kiste is another fantastic tobacco scent. As many of you know, Slumberhouse fragrances have major heft in terms of density and body, so I tend to recommend something from the line to people who ask for scents with great longevity and projection. Kiste is not only the most approachable one, but the first Slumberhouse I truly loved and felt I could wear myself, thanks to a mix of tobacco, spices, resins, honey, sweet cooked peaches, black tea, and more. It’s definitely another one to try, if you love dark, rich scents. It’s not at all similar to Ambre Loup, despite the joint element of tobacco. It’s fully unisex.

Black Gemstone. Photo: Roberto Greco.

Black Gemstone. Photo: Roberto Greco.

4) Black Gemstone from SHL 777 (Stephane Humbert Lucas 777), a very dark, incense oriental with spices, lemon, birch tar leather, spicy patchouli, and more. Be warned that the first 15 minutes are very intense indeed, with a lot of smoky blackness, so it may be a scent that you’ll have to give a few wearings in order to adjust. This skews a bit more to the masculine side.

5) Anubis by Papillon Perfumery, a bold mix of incense, spices, amber, iridescent mossiness, smoky leather, and jasmine floralcy. This came #2 on my list of last year’s best new releases, and is fully unisex.

Ambra Aurea

Ambra Aurea

6) Ambra Aurea by Profumum Roma. I consider this to be the gold standard for ambergris fragrances, though it also has some labdanum in it as well. Technically, “Amber” is an umbrella term that encompasses ambergris fragrances, labdanum ones, and a mixed benzoin-vanilla-labdanum combination of notes. Each type smells a little different. This one is centered on the densest, chewiest, richest ambergris around with dark toffee’d labdanum swirled in lightly. It’s a pure parfum with enormous richness and longevity. It’s also unisex.

7) Profumum‘s Arso. A sweet, foresty scent with pine sap, smoky leather, and aromatic woods. This is unisex, too, though I know more men who wear it than women.

8) Roja Dove Enigma Pour Homme Parfum (Creation-E in America.) Boozy cognac, rich spices, amber, tobacco, plummy fruits, and so much more, all in a deep, intense and opulent oriental bouquet. It’s a pure parfum, lasts, and projects, but it’s not cheap. It bears a small resemblance to Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, but it’s much more than that. I think it’s unisex, despite the gender classification in the name.

Source: Luckyscent

Ambra Nera. Source: Luckyscent

9) Farmacia SS Annunziata Ambra Nera. Punk rock ambergris with an attitude, thanks to incense, earthy darkness, spicy patchouli, sticky balsamic resins, honeyed sweetness, and an occasionally musky animalic undertone. If Billy Idol wore an amber scent, I think it would be this one. A super and unisex twist on ambergris.

10) SHL 777’s O Hira. When you want to mainline the labdanum form of amber, and money is no object, this is for you. The Incredible Hulk of ambers. It’s superb and with exceptionally high quality, but painfully costly.

11) Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles. A winter forest dripping cool pine sap, followed by incense, smoke, Christmas cooked plums, spices, gingerbread, warmth — this is a fantastic, unisex Christmas-y oriental and winter scent, though it is much lighter than many of the others on the list and sheerer in body. It also won’t last as some of the extraits or richer scents, but it is another personal favorite and a very popular Lutens fragrance in general. Tom Ford attempted to copy it with his Plum Japonais but I think it’s a poorly calibrated version that can’t beat the Lutens (except in terms of projection and body perhaps). This another fragrance I own and wear myself.

12) Roja Dove‘s Amber Extrait. Utterly delicious chocolate-covered amber for those who like a gourmand take on amber and can also afford Roja Dove’s prices. It’s also unisex.

13) Parfumerie Generale‘s Coze. Coze is indeed cozy, with warm, spicy patchouli, cocoa, and grassy hemp layered with tobacco, woods, and vanilla, then covered with nutmeg, cloves, and a pinch of sweet, dark, loamy earthiness. Excellent, fully unisex, and another fragrance that I bought for myself.

14) AbdesSalaam Attar‘s Oud Caravan No. 3. For the man (or woman) who loves true, real Middle Eastern agarwood in all its facets, and I do mean all — blue cheese, camels, and more.

Richwood in the Stone Label bottle. Photo: Xerjoff via The Parfum Shop website.

Richwood in the Stone Label bottle. Photo: Xerjoff via The Parfum Shop website.

15) Xerjoff Richwood. When money is no concern and you want a regal fragrance centered on true, genuine Mysore sandalwood (with some help), this is the one I mention. The stunning sandalwood is laced with bright citruses, rosewood, spicy patchouli, and some earthiness, then drenched with plummy, dark liqueur, and wrapped up with incense smoke. Richwood is pretty damn fantastic, and unisex.

16) MFK‘s Absolue Pour Le Soir: a rich, molten beauty with roses, incense, spices, sandalwood, lush ylang floralcy, ambered richness, musky warmth, and some classical skankiness, all slathered in thick waves of honey. This is a fragrance for those who don’t mind cumin, the occasionally urinous aspects of honey, and muskiness that evokes heated skin, though be aware that some people experience an intimate, ripe, strongly sexualized aroma. That doesn’t happen on my skin, but don’t try APLS if you don’t like animalics of any kind. Like most of the names in this section, this one is fully unisex, too.

17) O’Driu‘s Peety. Honey-coated tobacco, spices, animalics, rich amber, musky castoreum, and a wisp of florals. A personalized side of your urine is optional. (No, I’m not joking.)

Amouage Interlude Man. Source: Vogue.ru

Amouage Interlude Man. Source: Vogue.ru

18) Amouage Interlude Man. Interlude opens with a blast of dried herbs, incense, and nutty opoponax (sweet myrrh) before rapidly turning into a complex shape-shifter that is rarely the same way twice on my skin. Leather, woods, oud, sandalwood, spices, and berries all play a role in a fragrance much beloved by men and some women. When people are looking for an incense-heavy fragrance with woods, leather, and spices, this is one I bring up, though I always caution that the herbal blast of the opening is something that you have to be patient with. The best part of Interlude Man for me was always its gorgeous sandalwood drydown, but so many of the old Amouage scents seem to have been reformulated that I have no idea if it’s still the same. This one skews masculine in focus, though I know a few women who wear it, too.

So, those are a few recommendations across a range of genres with a small focus on the more masculine side of things. It’s hardly a complete list by genre and I’ve left out some great fragrances, but these are the ones that typically come to mind above all else. In any event, I hope I could bring a few new fragrances to your attention, and that you might find something you like. Have a good weekend everyone!

73 thoughts on “Fragrance Recommendations: Leathers, Vetivers, Fougères & More

  1. Yeah for this post!!!! I have been perusing leathers for a few weeks now so this is great. Heading back to Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia this am. Own Kalemat Amber and ambra aurea, as well as decants of Kiste (although I like slumberhouse’s Ore a tad more) and Ambre loup. Anubis and a slew of SHL777 for the Xmas list as you know! I am going to try Cuir Cannage and Sycamore-just need time to stop by the fancy downtown store and pick up samples. Hard leather was….too hard 🙂 The oud was super strong on me.
    My favourite vetiver is Serge Luten’s Vetiver Oriental with the cocoa hints. It’s parked next to Fille en Aiguilles. And vintage Eau Sauvage. My grandfather and father wore it. And I am very intrigued by Chemise Blanche…Xmas pack!
    Other than Soleil de Jeddah, which I have yet to try, not many of the leather ones are calling me. Daim Blond was too powdery a suede for me. Any other thoughts you might have for a leather for me to try? Naomi Goodsir’s Cuir Velour is already in my list. Thanks!!!!

    • Cuir Ottoman might work for you. And consider Hermes’ Cuir d’Ange as well. Your Christmas list sounds great, Paskale!

      • I didn’t like Cuir d’Ange or Cuir de Russie. Had never heard of Cuir ottoman and am very drawn to the notes listed. Excellent! Will let you know how it goes. Thanks again for the expert consultation

        • Did you accidentally skip over its mention in the post? I’m only asking because I thought the drydown I described would suit you, but wasn’t sure if the opening is why you didn’t bring it up.

          • Your description definitely caught my eye. The potential re formulation business I wasn’t sure about. I figured I’d ask you bc you’re getting to know (and shape) my tastes.

          • Ah, got it. I think it’s definitely worth a try, even with the brand reformulation rumour. It’s the middle to drydown that I think you might enjoy, and it’s not a powerhouse monster. The only issue might be if the iris skews too powdery on your skin, but I hope it’s more suede for you.

        • Cuir de Russie is not my thing, either. Too damn soapy with all those Chanel aldehydes. “Bathtastic,” as one friend of mine terms the Chanel signature. lol. What was the deal with you and Cuir d’Ange? Too light and short-lived?

          • Exactly that on both counts! Cuir d’Ange first did the Hermes shop scent on me, and then morphed into powdered horse (not manure or hay…. Just horse). I used to ride, and the powdered elements combined with that image just didn’t go over well. Cuir de Russie: bleh.

          • Heh, I relate to your Cuir d’Ange reaction, except for me it was with the Chanel. Cuir de Russie was a steaming pile of horse poop covered by frothing bubble bath lather. I used to ride, too, and while “horse” can be an interesting fragrance note in some instances, it most definitely wasn’t here.

  2. Ambre Loup ordered and on the way…I knew this Kafka post was a ‘dangerous read! 🙂 Any recommendations for chypre style fragrances as MDCI Parfums Chypre Palatin is now a very firm favorite? Off to Scotland soon for what is very likely a very wintry November in Edinburgh and looking to stock up on the fragrances to take with me! I think Ambre Loup will make the cut-off! Again, K., thank you for your reviews, insights and your friendship.

    • Oh gosh, chypres are a whole post in and of themselves. There is really nothing like Chypre Palatin that comes to mind right now, so I’ll have to think about it when I’ve had some sleep, since I’m completely brain-dead after an all-nighter. But HURRAH for Ambre Loup!!!

    • So, I’ve been thinking about what might work for you, Carl, and I haven’t come up with anything truly similar in style to Chypre Palatin but have you tried Maai? On me, it has even more mossy greenness than Chypre Palatin ever had. The thing is, there isn’t moss but it’s a trick of the nose/perfumer’s technique to create that illusion via other notes. My worry is that one of the ways that was done — green tuberose — might skew too floral on your skin instead of “moss, moss, moss.” I don’t know. The thing is, a LOT of people who smell MAAI instantly think of the ultra-classical, vintage chypres filled with greenness.

      The big problem in all this is that MAAI is also animalic and raunchy, with tons of Hyrax, Civet, Castoreum, etc. So if you don’t like skanky, civety urinous notes, and animalic leather, you won’t like Maai. I don’t think we’ve really talked about animalics, you and I. How are you with them, and just how much civet pee can you tolerate? If you like animalics, then Maai should absolutely be at the top of your list of things to try. If you don’t, stay away.

      Have you ever tried Papillon’s Anubis? It’s definitely not a chypre, but there is a mossy element derived from a special, earthy lotus absolute as well as some oakmoss. Anubis crosses a few fragrances families, in my opinion: it’s a leather, incense, and skanky floral oriental with a definite chypre-ish set of notes as well. I think you’d probably like that one quite a bit, so long as you don’t think of it as any substitute whatsoever for Chypre Palatin. The two things couldn’t smell more different!

      In a way, that’s the problem with Chypre Palatin. It’s pretty unique. Duchaufour’s use of that rare, expensive molecule-extraction method let him use so much more oakmoss than anything else around, so nothing else can compare in quite the same way because they’re all bound by the IFRA/EU restrictions. Your best bet might be to just buy another bottle of it. I mean, let’s face it, if it’s such a favorite, you’re bound to use it up soon, right? LOL. Might as well succumb to buying more of it. (I actually had this discussion with my mother just a few months ago, because she’s gone through her Chypre Palatin at a shocking rate, and she doesn’t like anything else quite so much.)

      • I also love Chypre Palatin. It’s ok to call it irreplaceable! This morning for didactic reasons I am comparing Shangri La, Mitsouko, Salome and Eau Scandaleuse. Might I suggest Carl, Hiram Green’s Shangri La as a very different idea (again depends on how much animal/skin scent you like) Oriza Legrand’s Chypre Mousse, or PPC’s Moss Gown. None have the smooth vanilla dry down of CPalatin and focus on very different notes. I love the boronia in Moss Gown. Then there is Sgtelier’s Bergmoss … Very low longevity. Kafka, I’m thinking of ordering a mignon (Xmas 🙂 ) set from Attar that includes Oakmoss/Tarzan. How might that fit in this discussion?

        • I don’t think AbdesSalaam’s Oakmoss/Tarzan fits in this discussion because it’s primarily a vetiver fragrance. Not just for me, but for the vast majority of people who try it. It’s a very nice warm, soft, plush vetiver, though.

          • Wow, great suggestions and my tolerance for skanky fragrances far surpasses what my friends will put up with. (My friends in Scotland think Oriza L. Legrand’s Horizon is too “funky”!)

            I love Hard Leather and Masque Milano’s Montecristo, but only wear them in private. I tired Maai when it first came out and really liked it, but it was very floral on me, so I bought Cologne Reloaded instead, as that was a bit more in my comfort zone at that time. I’ll definitely have to revisit Maai as my fragrance borders have shifted.

            Anubis sounds very interesting, Kafka, and the fact that you think it will suit me puts it right at the top of my to-try list. I understand that Chypre Palatin is pretty much in a league of its own. Still, I’d like to learn more about modern renditions of the genre that have the same quality as Chypre Palatin. Chypre Palatin could be my every day, every occasion scent, though, as it does rather peculiarly, satisfy almost all my scent cravings. I understand that many consider it too baroque and grand to wear under regular circumstances, but I like it with jeans and a t-shirt just as much as in more formal occasions, so your suggestion to buy another bottle, Kafka, is really a good one.

            I tried liking Invasion Barbare, but it felt ‘harsh’ in comparison to Chypre Palatin. Coincidentally, I just read about Shangri La today and made a mental note to get a sample. I’m afraid Chypre Mousse and I didn’t hit it off, which was a huge disappointment as I really love a number of Oriza L. Legrand’s fragrances and am wanting to try their new release – Cuir de l’Aigle Russe.

            I am very much indebted for the recommendations and the thoughtfulness and kindness of your replies. Thank you! With all things fragrance, “I am only an egg.” 🙂

          • First, it’s nothing, my friend. Second, I share your feelings on Invasion Barbare being harsher and less smooth than Chypre Palatin. I think it’s the profusion of white musk which is partially to blame, but it’s also a crisper, cooler, thinner scent as a whole. Interesting that Maai was very floral on you. I do hope you’ll give Maai another shot, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. BTW, you’re a lucky devil to have a bottle of Cologne Reloaded, since it’s no longer made and a lot of people really wish they could get a hold of it. Don’t ever sell it. lol.

            Let me know what you think of Anubis, since I really *do* think it will be up your alley. The reason is the mix of leather, smoke, resins, and that fascinating, iridescent, earthy oakmoss-like lotus note, all wrapped up with dark ambered warmth. Fingers crossed that you like it as much as I hope/think you will.

      • Hi K. Quick update. Went back and retested MAAI and while I like it a great deal, especially the dry down, there’s something in it that hits me in my stomach – weird, I know – during the development and so I passed on a purchase. I did buy a bottle of Papillon’s Anubis – arrives Friday – a blind buy – but given your high recommendation and notes that I know I love, well, really looking forward to it! 🙂

        • P.S. Have you tried Oriza L. Legrand’s Cuir de l’Aigle Russe yet? Seriously considering another blind buy. They’ve divided their fragrances into epochs and I need one from the ‘Collection Second Empire’! LOL

        • It was good of you to give it a second chance, Carl. At least now you know for certain that it’s not for you. And that’s perfectly fine, because we all have something that skews wonky on us or that includes a note that doesn’t sit well on our skin. I hope Anubis is the one for you and that you love it. Let me know in its thread once you try it and have a sense of how you feel about it, okay? 🙂

  3. Great post, K! I bought Cuir Maureque a few years ago and Will cherish it. Presume it was recently reformulated ? Very sorry to hear they changed it. I bought my boyfriend Coze, it is very spicy on him, a bit too much for my taste. But it suits him and he likes it, together with Guerlain Heritage. Love Invasion Barbare myself, somehow it reminds me of Clive Owen, as the personification of the perfect man. But I would not wear it myself nor would give it to my BF as he doesn’t like fougeres. Time to dig up, THE Cuirs, Cuir Ottoman, Cuir de Russie and Cuir Mauresque ! Have a great weekend and hugs for THE Kaiser !

    • I think it must have been a recent thing, because the sample that was sent to me was from a recent purchase. A reader wrote in to me saying she thought Cuir Mauresque smelt different in the new bottle she’d bought versus an old one she had. Keep in mind, Cuir Mauresque originally came out in 1996 or so, which is almost 20 years ago. It clearly must have been reformulated at least once or twice since then.

      Anyway, she sent me samples of both bottles, and there was definitely something different in the quality of the new one. My own original bottle was from 2012 or thereabouts, and I picked up a used bottle on eBay that is probably a bit older, according to when the seller bought it. That still smells roughly like what I had. What the reader sent to me was different from both my bottles, in the way I described but also lighter/thinner in body and feel.

      So, in my opinion, I do think it must have been reformulated sometime in the last few years. Serge Lutens has said in a past interview on Fragrantica that he does reformulate, and it’s a standard practice in the industry for any fragrance that has been around for a while, so I’m sure it’s happened a few times to every old/established fragrance that we love. Whether we notice it will probably depend on how new/how old was the scent we’re most familiar with.

      • Thank you, K, for your explanation. My bottle must have been bought in 2013 directly online from Paris. You are right, it all repends which version you are familiar with. Enjoy your weekend !

  4. Super post, thanks for sharing, K. Am home sick with a horrible cold, so this was a treat to read from bed :). Reading your reviews is always dangerous… I have a few more to add to the must-sample list!

    • I hope you feel better, Lellabelle, and that it doesn’t ruin your weekend. As for the post, I’m glad there were a few names that intrigued you.

  5. You’re not alone on the “all-nighter” although I fell asleep from about 5:30 am til about 7 am. I had planned on venturing forth in public, but one look in the mirror and I decided not to scare people. Plus they ask if I’m feeling well; friends know not to ask.
    This post was lots of fun because it reminded me of my ever-growing, full bottle list.
    On the Colognes genre: I can’t believe that I wore those fresh, crisp colognes for so long; now insipid to my nose after being exposed to my new friends the skanky animalics + leather. 🙂 Hope *you* manage to get some sleep or rest. Cheers 😀

    • Fresh, crisp colognes are definitely at the other end of the spectrum from skank monsters! Have a good weekend, Don, and let’s hope we both manage to get a little sleep.

      • Lately I’ve been seeing so many discussions on reformulations that
        before buying whatever it may be I’m considering, it won’t happen until I ask you and/or do my research. Having reread this review I see that there are several names not on my full bottle want- list such as LIDGE, which you recently suggested, and Profumum’s Fumidus. I love Arso btw as does my partner, who says it reminds him of NC Outter Banks in the autumn with windswept, deserted beaches, pines and sitting by a bonfire whilst flecks of salt water laden mists swirl around him.

        I’ve been holding off going to bed but
        I must give in and give it a go; I’m exhausted and definitely will sleep- at least more than 90 minutes! 🙂
        You too have a restful weekend K!!

  6. Thanks so much for your awesome article! One of my favourite scents of all time is Cuir Mauresque, and I am quite upset to hear it’s been reformulated. Do you know when this happened? I tested it in Paris this past summer, and it seemed to be what I remembered, perhaps the tester was old, though I hope that’s not the case.

    • I think the reformulation must be relatively recent but, as I explained to Esperanza up above, how much one notices it will probably depend on the age of the Cuir Mauresque version one is most familiar with. The fragrance originally came out in 1996, which is a lifetime ago in the perfume industry. Standard practices seem to be reformulation of any existing scent after a certain time has passed, usually as a business decision for cost saving/profit reasons, though sometimes also for IFRA/EU ones.

      Cuir Mauresque contains jasmine, orange blossom, clove, and orange/mandarin — all of which are targets of the EU/IFRA restrictions on note quantities. A lot of companies began reformulating things in a hurry around late 2013/early 2014 because of the latest EU regulations which were going to be the most stringent. Perhaps that’s when it happened but, whatever the date or the cause, the Cuir Mauresque that a reader sent me from a recent bottle purchase smelt quite different from her original, much older bottle. It also smelt different than my own 2012 bottle (which may well have been older in date, since large-scale vendors tend to buy/order in bulk). Thinner, sheerer, more clean musk, and the other changes I mentioned like that weird plasticity to the flowers that wasn’t apparent before. So, yeah, in my opinion, I do think something has changed.

      A number of the Lutens have been reformulated in even worse fashion, if you ask me. First and foremost, Un Bois Vanille which is a shadow of its former self. Almost no coconut milkiness, hugely increased sugariness, more white musk than it ever had, and a different quality to its darker notes as well. And I think Gris Clair is positively painful with its similarly elevated levels of white musk and its now scratchy, rough incense.

      How old is your bottle of Cuir Mauresque, or how long ago did you buy it?

      • I haven’t yet bought it, it was always something I had intended to buy but put off for varying reasons. (Silly me). I tested it in 2005 and the leather note was very strong, quite close to vintage Tabac Blond, with a lush oriental dry down. The version I tested in Paris this summer was a little weaker, but still good. The leather note has suffered, but it was still a good oriental option.

        I wonder if I had perhaps smelled the latest reformulation, and it happened to be good enough for me. I asked the boutique assistant if any reformulations were planned for CM and he assured me there weren’t, because it was Mr Lutens’ personal scent!

        • Hm, well, if he says so. Then again, he would be likely to say that, wouldn’t he? Was it Suleiman you saw? Distinguished, tall-ish, Middle Eastern chap with some gravitas?

          For me, the leather is actually NOT the issue, and I think it’s still pretty good. Yes, it’s a bit weaker than it was, but not substantially so. The new sample I was sent was not hugely different at all from my bottle(s) in that regard.

          Where I think the real changes have been made are to the *florals.* I think something about them doesn’t ring the same way in quality, aroma, depth, or lushness. That bug spray-like undertone, the plasticity… those are all things related to the white flowers. Maybe the new bottle from which I was sent a sample was a fluke and a one-off thing? But the perfume didn’t smell rancid and definitely hadn’t turned, so who knows.

          Now I keep wondering what Cuir Mauresque was like in 1996 when it was first released. How I wish I could smell a bottle from then.

          • That’s interesting that you say that, I’m probably less sensitive to those notes than you are, perhaps that’s why I didn’t notice the florals much. It sounds highly likely though, a lot of florals were drastically reformulated last year, and of course I’m more inclined to believe you than my memory of an afternoon spent sniffing.

            The assistant I spoke with was a tall, blond, I think, French man who spoke impeccable English. I know it’s standard to deny reformulations, but I loved the reason he gave 🙂 I’d better buy a bottle before more reformulations are made. Thanks for discussing this with me 🙂

  7. Hello Kafka,

    I’m wondering if the fact that Cuir Mauresque might have been reformulated recently is the reason why I’m a bit disappointed with the purchase I made last winter. I had tested it frequently in shops and from a sample I had purchased (not sure how old that was). I loved it not least because of its vintage vibe. As a matter of fact, it was a toss-up between Cuir Mauresque and Tabac Blond. I finally decided on CM after a side to side test between the two, but since then instead of adoring it, it remains pretty much in the back of my cupboard. I reach for it only on the coldest of days. I don’t know if it’s me, my nose or my bottle, but I find that the florals are indeed weaker, disappear early on and the cumin quickly takes over. It’s on the verge of overpowering. I don’t mind civet or other animalics, but I really dislike strong cumin which to me smells like stale sweat which I find neither appealing nor alluring.

    On another note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your recommendation last spring that I get over my patchouli prejudice by trying Coromandel. I LOVE it!

    • First, I’m enormously pleased to hear that you loved the Coromandel, Lilly. We’ll slowly make you a Patch Head yet…. 😉 (I kid, I kid. Well, sorta. lol) Second, I’m sorry the Cuir Mauresque is evoking stale sweat via the cumin, because that’s never good! Underarm sweat is pretty much a fragrance deal-breaker for me, so I sympathise. But I have to admit, I was little relieved to hear that you find the florals different, too.

      As a possible fix or solution, might I suggest using Cuir Mauresque as a base upon which to spray a rich floral or floriental to drown out the cumin? It might add some needed oomph or pizzazz, while fixing the balance of notes so that your purchase isn’t a total waste relegated to the back of the closet. If you have a good jasmine, orange blossom, or even vanilla that might do the trick. Try it, and let me know if it helps.

  8. Kafka thank you for the list, it has been a treat to read. Still debating between Ambra Aurea and Ambra Nera – and I guess will continue with the debate in my head. Your recommendations are amazing – and I have bought quite a few based on your sophisticated descriptions(Anubis, Ambre Loup, Alahine). bday is coming up so I have a feeling I will be getting M

    • Marianna, my dear, I hope you know that it was our correspondence that triggered this post? 🙂 I’d thought of doing one for a while, but talking to you about the leathers prompted me to finally go ahead and put everything together. Hopefully, you’ll find a few more leathers to test and one will eventually be perfect for you. My suggestion would be to sample “M” first, though, simply because of the price tag and because I don’t know if you will find the citrusy chypre-ish elements in the opening to skew a bit masculine for your tastes or on your skin. PS — I had no idea you’d also bought Alahine. That made my afternoon! You know how much I love Alahine.

  9. Thank you so much for this lovely post! I only tried a handful from this list and this post definitely opened my eyes. 😀

    For leather, I prefer the powdery floral ones such as Cuir Ottoman and Cuir de Lancôme and I can do 1740 Marquis de Sade for the moment. I now know where to look for if I ever want to venture for something more skanky.

    For vetiver, I really enjoy the interplay between chocolate and vetiver in Serge Lutens’ Vétiver Oriental. The bitterness of chocolate complements the vetiver, while its creamy texture smoothens out the rough side of vetiver.

    • Heh, I would never have thought of you in 1740/Marquis de Sade, so I think it’s great you’re venturing forth into a bolder or skankier sort of fragrance that is outside of your usual comfort zone or style. Excellent, Yinghao, bravo! You know what you might like in terms of vetivers? The soft, plush, warmed-up vetiver of Oakmoss/Tarzan from La Via del Profumo. It’s a sunny but almost autumnal vetiver, and very smooth.

      • Thank you Kafka for the suggestion! I don’t have much experience with oakmoss and chypre, so when I see these two terms, I’d usually think of something austere. But with your description, I’ll sure give Tarzan a try. 😀

  10. What a wonderful post, Kafka! I actually have not explored Vetiver and I am taking note of your recommendations. I have only smelled Sycomore on paper but it sounds like I need to open my mini! On the ambers, I finally wore Rania J. Ambre Loup today and oh my – definitely FBW; I currently have a generous decant. I also need to seek out LIDG and LIDGE (and Habit Rouge Dress Code).

    • Awesome news about Ambre Loup!!!! And I’ve been telling you for a while that I think you’d like LIDG (I think you’d like it more than the LIDGE). What’s ideal about LIDG for you is that it is appropriate for a very conservative workplace like yours.

    • I have a sample of Opus II somewhere that I’ve been meaning to try for ages now, so thank you for inspiring me to hunt for it!

  11. Regarding the leathers:
    I wanted for some time to try SL Cuir Maresque and Daim Blond, but didn’t find them at the shops I’ve visited that carried SL. And you’ve got me curious on HdP 1740. From what I have tried,
    I love Puredistance M, Cuir Cannage and Cuir d’Ange, Not so crazy about Cuir Ottoman; I thought I would love it, but there is a rubber smell that I didn’t like. Cuir de Russie…yes, a little too animalic for me.
    I see you didn’t mention the TF Tuscan Leather…it’s another take on leather that I absolutely love, as well as AdP Leather and YSL Noble Leather.

    Regarding the vetiver:
    This is my favorite note. My best of which I own are Dior Vetiver, Hermes Bel Ami Vetiver, TF Grey Vetiver, TdC Sel de Vetiver and Lalique Encre Noire. I have also Oriza’s Vetiver Royal Bourbon; it’s a different smokey and minty vetiver as you know, because your review weighted much in me blind buying it. I have read your review a few times before I committed to a bottle. I like it, it’s unique, but I prefer the haitian type of vetiver.
    I have tried only once Chanel Sycomore and, because I was testing a lot more that day, I didn’t really feel it, I don’t remember it well, I really wanted to compare it to Encre Noire. I have asked for a sample but they said they don’t have any. I don’t know…the Chanel store didn’t have samples? It felt like they didn’t ant to give any…
    I have other that I have sampled and love, like Roja Dove Vetiver, Zegna Haitian Vetiver, Heeley Vetiver Veritas, MPG Route de Vetiver and the list goes on.

    Just a curiosity…how many bottles of perfume do you own? I’m reading your blog for a while, but I don’t remember seeing anything related to your collection. Wait…could you do a blog post about your collection? 🙂

    • Welcome to the blog, Seb, and thank you for sharing some of your favorites. With regard to your question, I’ve never counted my perfume bottles. I would estimate my collection is average in size as compared to the highs and lows of what others own. As for Chanel, I suspect they’re too snobbish to give samples, but if you ever went in there and whipped out a vial of your own, I can’t see what excuse they could come up with not to give you some. Try that next time, and see what happens.

      • Thanks! I’ve commented to your posts 2-3 times in the past, I think. I’m reading your blog since the beginning of this year.
        Yes, you do have a point with going there with my own vials. I have done it before in some small niche perfume shops and most of the times it worked. But I thought that a monster house like Chanel would be kind enough to give free samples to potentials customers. Dior does not like this too much also, I have seen. I’ve had positive experience with Hermes, when they gave me hermessence samples.

        • My apologies for my poor memory, Seb. I’ve been badly sleep-deprived for a few days now, so forgive me for not remembering. Regarding sampling, Hermes is unique, imo, and in the best way possible. They are astonishingly generous as a general rule. In America, if you don’t live near one of their stores, you can just call them up, and they’ll send you large Hermessence samples for free. It’s so different from the stand-offish reluctance of some other brands (designer or nice). Dior here is better, but Chanel is notoriously bad/hopeless.

          I do think the effort is worth it for Sycomore for a die-hard, hardcore vetiver lover like yourself. I also hope you get to try Cuir Mauresque some day but, given what you said about the leather being animalic in Cuir de Russie, I don’t know if it will be for you. For what it’s worth, it’s a different sort of animalics on my skin. Cuir de Russie was sheer horse poop (hot and steaming, the worst kind), while the leather in Cuir Mauresque is animalic in a totally different way through different notes (civet). No poop at all. Hopefully, it will the sort of leather that you enjoy. You know, some people have had success emailing Serge Lutens Int’l to ask for (free) samples of stuff that they can’t get, so that may be worth a shot for you if you can’t find the ones you’re interested in at stores in your area.

          • No worries. I’ve commented a few months ago, so you couldn’t remember that! I do read your blog, but don’t comment for whatever reason. I really enjoyed the episodes with your experience as parfumista in Italy.
            I don’t know when I’ll get to see next time Les Exclusives by Chanel, but I’ll bring some empty vials with me.
            I’m not a fan of fecal/civet notes, but as a year and a half ago I didn’t enjoy many leathers I’m enjoying now, who knows what I’ll grow to like in the future. I was surprised that I liked very much ELDO Rien from the start after reading reviews about it (including yours). I get a sensual powdery leather, right on the edge of being offensive. I think it’s very addictive and I might buy a bottle in the future. I have tried the Rien Intense Incense and liked the added incense at the top, but I’ll have to test it again.

    • La Via del Profumo’s Oud Caravan No. 3 mentioned and linked in the post is all about oud and camels in a desert caravan. Hardcore, real oud, complete with barnyard notes, camels, smokiness, and Soufi agarwood’s fermented cheese. Sharif from the same line is an excellent scent that is very evocative of deserts and bedouins, but the focus is on leather (with almonds and other stuff) instead of oud.

  12. Excellent list! Thank you for posting this. Many of these I have not tried and yet I love these specific notes. Thank you for the nuanced descriptions.

  13. Brilliant article and list – quite a few of which I have and enjoy. Thank you for doing things like this – gives great inspiration!

    • First, welcome to the blog, Michael. Second, thank you for your kind words on the piece. What are some of your favourite fragrances on the list or ones you wear? I look forward to getting to know you and your tastes a bit better.

      • Many thanks K – it’s a great blog; it’s just taken me a while to post (we had a couple of emails a while back about dogs…)

        From the list, I have and really enjoy the following; Puredistance M, Roja Dove’s Vetiver, Enigma Pour Homme and Amber Extrait (I’m a BIG fan of Roja’s work… more on that in a bit), MDCI Invasion Barbare, Guerlain L’Instant Eau Extreme, Slumberhouse Kiste, SHL Black Gemstone and O Hira, Profumum Roma Ambra Aurea and Xerjoff Richwood.

        Of those, O Hira, Vetiver Extrait, Invasion Barbare and Richwood would be included within my top 10, whereas the rest would all make a top 25, but not be at the top of the list.

        Over and above those on the list, others that would make my top 10 would include Roja’s Diaghilev, his new version of Nuwa (sorry, I know you liked the original version) and his new Parfum de la Nuit 1. I also have one of Roja’s Semi-Bespoke Parfums (No5), which is simply spectacular. MDCI’s Chypre Palatin would also be included, as would Xerjoff’s Casamorati 1888.

        So, I’m not sure that demonstrates a leaning towards any type of genre at all – I’m not overly bogged down by technical details or notes… I simply like what I like and that can be very mood dependant!

        I’d just like to finish by saying how much I enjoy reading your reviews – absolutely first class stuff. Please keep it going!

        • Ah, Michael, so good to have you come out of lurkerdom. How is Monty? I was thinking of you last month when my vet and I were discussing Apoquel again. He was suggesting it as a solution to The Hairy German’s skin issues, particularly as I’ve finally weaned him off the prednisone/steroids. Unfortunately, the same issue came up as the first time I mentioned it to him after your email: availability. Apparently, there are serious shortages in the States, and on a constant basis. I might be able to get one month’s worth but there is no guarantee that my vet (or vets in general) will be able to get it the next month. Apparently, it’s produced in fits and spurts over here or, rather, the production cannot keep up with the demand of the US market. Anyway, you were on my mind quite a bit during all this, so it’s good to see you posting on the blog.

          Thank you for sharing some of your ultimate favorites, as well as others in your Top 25 list of fragrances. It’s a lovely list, though I already knew of your love for Roja Dove’s creations. I bet you always smell exceptional and luxe. Please, give Monty a kiss from me, okay?

  14. Hi K – I absolutely love your blog and thank you so much for compiling your excellent recommendations!! I have tried Maai and absolutely love it – its a fragrance that stays in your mind – but, its leaning too masculine on me – do you have any recommendations for a fragrance that is similar to Maai but, leans a bit more feminine. Maybe I can layer the Maai with something else? Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Ritu, welcome to the blog. 🙂 What parts of Maai appealed to you the most? What parts felt too masculine on you? And what are your favorite perfume styles, genres, and notes in general? If you tell me a little more, I can point you to something that might work better for you. 🙂

  15. Hi K – I’ve been reading your blog for months and am always amazed by how well you describe each and every aspect of the fragrance -so much so, that I can actually smell them in my mind!! So for Maai – I loooove the skankiness of it – if that is the right word even!! i love the warmth, the greenness, the slight muskiness. I wore must de cartier (vintage) for years and years – but, now have outgrown it and have been looking for something sensual, warm, skanky, musky and yet fresh? is that the right way? Something that lingers and stays in your memory – Maai for the most part does that but, its a bit masculine.. just a bit. After trying many, many perfume sample the one that most recently stood out for me is Guerlain L’Instance for women (although I’m hearing its being discontinued. I haven’t tried the Homme version but, based on your notes its on my list to try) – anyhow I discovered it on a friend who smells amazing – and this perfume smells much better on her than on me – but, I still enjoy the Guerlain.. I also like Moon Bloom a lot – but, am saving it for summer as it smells a bit young to me (ok I’m pushing mid forties here – If I was 30 I would wear moon bloom more often). I have also tried some of the Amouage’s that you have described but, they fade within a few minutes on me.

    • My apologies for the delay in responding, Rita, but it’s been a busy week. For a warmer take on musky skankiness, I definitely recommend trying Papillon’s beautiful chypre, Salome. I don’t think it will skew so masculine and intense on your skin as Maai. It’s not “fresh,” though, at least not in terms of how I define that note. But it’s beautifully sensuous, erotic, and bold. You have to like spices and cumin, but those are what create its musky warmth and the sense of heated skin. If you don’t like cumin, I’d suggest Papillon’s Anubis which is a chypre-oriental with greenness along with incense, leather, ambered warmth, jasmine, and a few more things. It’s not skanky, but it is bold, dark, and warm. Also, have you tried Hiram Green’s Shangri-La? That might be another option for you, though I don’t think you’ll find it skanky. Another chypre to consider is the L’Eau Scandaleuse that I just reviewed, but I think you have to love galbanum and dark leatheriness (à la Bandit).

      As for Moon Bloom, I personally don’t think a tuberose soliflore has any age, and I know plenty of women in their 50s who wear it, so I wouldn’t hesitate if I were in your shoes if you really love the scent. 🙂

  16. Kafka – thank you so much for your wonderful recommendations. I just placed my order on Luckyscent (I was so excited that they had all these fragrances!!). Now I’m just waiting impatiently and can’t wait to try all these magical concoctions. Many thanks for taking the time to share. I’ll let you know how they work on me once I’ve sampled them. All the best, Ritu

    • It was my pleasure, Ritu. I hope the L’Eau Scandaleuse works on you, but I confess I’m not too sure about that one for you because I don’t know how you feel about leather, smoky leather, galbanum, or things like Bandit. The rest, though (particularly Salome), I feel more confident about, given what you’ve told me so far. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think once you try them! And if none of them work, no worries, at least I’ll have a better idea of your tastes and the notes that you like/dislike. 🙂

  17. Hi Kafka – I really, really like L’Eau Scandaleuses – to me it smells warm, comfy and cozy – and it keeps morphing – sometimes I smell the peach, other times it tends to be more green – very well done!!. I also tried the Biehl GS03 and this one is also very, very nice – on me its a warm clean skin scent For some reason I did not enjoy Salome – it smelled too dry and standoffish (isn’t that weird though?? its supposed to be the opposite!!. Anubis I liked a little better but, its too spicy. I also tried Alahine – which is beautiful – especially the dry down but, the pepper scent seems to keep wanting to take center stage and I just don’t enjoy the spices to be too obvious – I’m from India and any heavy spice scent takes me back to the homeland. I also revisited my sample of the Maai and gosh its really really good – and this time its not leaning too masculine – I wonder if my change is diet is affecting how some of the perfumes are smelling on me now? I am going to revisit some of the classics now too – especially Bandit and Opium (vintage). Surrender to Chance has both:)

    • Ah, I didn’t know you disliked a lot of spices. That definitely changes things and what I would recommend for you. I can see why Anubis would not be your thing and most definitely not Alahine!!! Definitely, definitely not. lol. But I’m glad to hear you like L’Eau Scandaleuse and the fact you enjoyed the Biehl GS03 tells me more about your tastes as well. BTW, I can’t remember if you’ve tried Hiram Green’s Shangr-La? If you liked L’Eau Scandaleuse, you may think Shangri-La is even better. If I knew more about the floral or other notes you loved, I would have a better sense of what to suggest to you.

  18. Hi Kafka – I forgot to order the Shangri La initially but, just placed my order at Luckyscent (they have a promo going on where they’ll send you 5 free samples of their choice with a $15 purchase:). Our of the others that I tried I love is the Amouage Ubar – but, it lasts precisely 40 minutes on me (what is up with that!!). Yesterday while I was browsing thru your wonderful blog I was wearing Andy Tauers Une Rose the Kandahar – funny – I would always run far far away from any of the C spices – cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander – but, in this one it smelled somehow comforting. I also enjoy his L’air du deser Morocain. My preference always used to be anything with Jasmine – so, wore Lutens A la Nuit for quiet some time but, I think now I’m leaning towards scents that are more complicated yet refined but, not gourmand – i don’t want to smell like a field of flowers, vanilla cake or incense or like a spice rack – I know you must be thinking – well what the heck does she like:) I think its all about the composition and how it makes me feel and how I want to feel. Scent is such a strong sense and can not only transport to different places and feelings but, also inspire and tantalize. BTW I loooved your interview with AbdesSalaam – what a profoundly interesting man!! I felt as if he was articulating how I feel about scent in a way that I could never express but, its there in my psyche. I am going to try some of his scents next.

    • Well, now I’m completely confused as to what your perfume tastes. 🙂 😀 You don’t like spices, but you liked L’Air du Desert Marocain?! You don’t like animalic scents, but you loved Ubar? My dear, I’m going to figure out your tastes one day by hook or by crook. *grin*

      • Kafka – yes please do help!! Even I am in a conundrum because I used to be very set in what I enjoy and what works with my chemistry! I don’t know what is going on – maybe my body chemistry is changing or what the great Mr AbdesSalaam says that fragrance is a calling of your soul – so something deep inside me is craving for a certain scent – and you know in my mind I can smell what I want but, it hasn’t translated 100% on my skin. Thank you for your insight on the animalics – its weird – I absolutely love Ubar and am going to try to figure out a way to make it last longer and that has the civet in it. But, this Bespoke #7 – its very interesting and sometimes the drydown is beyond beautiful – like nothing I’ve ever smelled before – but, that poo keeps coming forth – I’ll keep trying though because you can tell the quality is there – it ain’t the cheap stuff). I also tried his Fetish for women and did not like it – its trying to be too many things I feel – too green, but not in a good way. Again Kafka many thanks for your wonderful insights – I really appreciate it!

  19. OMG Kafka – I just got my samples of the Roja Dove perfumes from Surrender to Chance – Semi Bespoke 6 and 7. The 6 is beautiful and something I would wear (notes of jasmine and all kinds of flowery things but, not in your face flower garden).. But, this #7 – I don’t know how else to say it but it smells like poop!! I don’t know what to make of it – I’ve never smelled anything like it before – what would give perfume that poopy smell?? Ugghhhh and its getting worse – what is that!!

    • I don’t know anything about Roja Semi-Bespoke #7 or its notes, but there are a lot of animalic materials that could give a scent a fecal aroma. It depends on the note in question, the quantity used, the accompanying notes, and how they all work together.

      Animalic materials that could smell like poo are: castoreum, oud, some leathers, some dark/dirty musks, costus root, certain dark grades of ambergris (though it’s not typical), occasionally civet (though that tends to skew primarily towards pee and urinous aromas), cumin on rare occasion when combined with other things like castoreum, or even indoles in very high doses (indoles are a core aspect of some white flowers, like jasmine). Fragrances like Salome, Anubis, and Maai both have castoreum, and it’s occasionally used in floral orientals (like Aftelier’s Cuir de Gardenia). Roja Dove used it for his leather in Fetish Pour Homme (and also maybe in his Fetish Femme, I can’t recall the notes in that one now). A lot of old-school chypres have castoreum, civet, or both in them.

      Okay, I just did some digging to find out what is in Bespoke #7 beyond the basic “animalic” description. Apparently, there is: “Petitgrain, orange, lavander, rose de mai, geranium, patchouli, labdanum, castoreum, franckincense, musk, ambergris, civit [sic]”.

      My guess is that it’s the castoreum you’re having issues with. I think it’s an issue of quantity and interaction with other notes because you liked L’Eau Scandaleuse which had castoreum in it. (You also loved Ubar which has civet in it.) Again, Salome, Anubis, and Maai had both civet and castoreum in it. My guess is that you don’t like “animalic scents” as a genre, because that is what Bespoke #7 is meant to be. Some people actually prize and adore that sort of “poopy smell” you experienced which is occasionally described as “skanky,” but it’s not for everyone.

  20. Hallo Kafka.
    As you know Cuir Ottoman does not work on me. I prefer Kalemat from Arabian Oud. Anubis is currently one my best scents I have. Thanks for the recommendations. Will contact Mr. Chowdhury to ask for Kalemat Amber.

  21. Lalique encre noir is my favourite and signature vetiver perfume and after that guerlain vetiver and terre d hermes are also good vetiver perfumes… now roja dove is in my wishlist… i will try it for sure

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