2015 in Review: Best New Releases & Personal Favourites

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.

One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.

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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.

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Rania J. T. Habanero

Source: pinstake.com

Source: pinstake.com

Each of the fragrances of Rania J. Parfumeur showcases a different raw material, and it is the turn of tobacco in T. Habanero. It seeks to give the dark, black note the spicy fire of hot Cuban nights and the aroma of Havana’s famous cigars, but it is more complicated than that for me. Honeyed sweetness, black frankincense, Middle Eastern oud, synthetic sandalwood, and leather all play a part in T. Habanero’s dance, resulting in scent which took me to some surprising places. There is a stage where T. Habanero is a drier, deeper Killianesque Back to Black tobacco that is more suited to an aristocratic, private club in London frequented by Prince Charles and captains of industry than to a wild tango in Cuba. At other times, the scent is like Cuban cigars by way of bedouins in the Sahara, thanks to the barnyard funk of authentic, Middle Eastern oud. And, in the very end, it is a simple trip to overly smoky, arid, blackened woods. It is the last stage which is my problem.

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Rania J. Oud Assam

"Camels and Desert 3" by Mahoor Shah on Fine Art America. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“Camels and Desert 3” by Mahoor Shah on Fine Art America. (Direct website link embedded within.)

A mix of East and West lies at the heart of Oud Assam which showcases and highlights a true, authentic Middle Eastern oud in many of its complex facets before giving a nod to the West through touches of vetiver greenness and neo-chypre-like elements. It is not a scent for everyone, particularly those who have only experienced Western “oud,” a different animal entirely, and your reaction is going to depend on your familiarity with and appreciation for the more challenging aspects of the genuine article. On the other hand, if you love cheesy, creamy, musky, smoky, and slightly barnyard-like oud, Rania J.’s creation is one for you to try.

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