Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: January 2017

Three perfume houses that underwhelmed me

There are very few occasions when I well and truly dislike a perfume, but I do have what I’d call a scent profile. In general, I gravitate toward the woody orientals and away from fresh florals, and of course this fact will bias all my opinions of fragrances that I come across.

These days the main way I procure new scent is through samples, and to get my samples I either go to a sample provider or get them through a subscription service. Sadly, Japan (where I live) is not really a scent culture, so I don’t have much brick and mortar experience.

Anyway, although I feel sample sizes don’t offer enough volume of fragrance to determine whether or not I can fall in love with a scent, they are often more than enough to tell me whether or not it’s a “me” scent.  Over the past couple of years I’ve been collecting sample sized perfumes and now have what I feel is starting to become a collection of sorts. There are only a small few out of that pile that have made it to a love-at-first-sniff list, which is not surprising. But what is surprising is when I procure sets of several perfumes all from one company and nothing really grabs me.

The following are three companies with which I was disappointed, not due to the objective quality of their fragrances, but simply because not one of them managed to float by boat. Of course, if your tastes differ from mine – you absolutely adore florals in particular – at least a few of these might be massive winners in your book. I’ve not gone into great detail regarding the scent structure for this post – for that you can visit their websites or head over to Fragrantica (where you will definitely find happier customers than me!).

1000 Flowers

1000 Flowers is a niche house founded by perfumer Jessica Buchanan, who was driven by the ideal of “beauty in balance.” The formula of the first perfume, Réglisse Noire, was created in Grasse France, where Jessica learned the art of perfumery working at Mane and Robertet (oh la la!). As I love the ideal of more eco-friendly perfume as well as the fact that the company hails from Canada (my nation of origin), I bought her 5-piece sample set of the entire line from the website.

  • Fleur No. 1 smells fresh and green but acidic – what I imagine skunk pee might be like (on a good day). It’s also very old lady to me – too old school floral.
  • Réglisse Noire (black licorice) is a bit plastic-y and minty. I’m not a mint fan – on lip products, yes – but not in perfume. The licorice is very much present and is tasty, but it fades fast. I thought I would like this more than I did, since I quite like Lolita Lempicka and Blue Sugar (Aquolina) but although there was a lot of deliscious black licorice in this for me, I guess it was the mint vibe? Hats off to Jessica for blending an anise vibe with vetiver-y florals, though!
  • Narcotic Flowers reminds me in way of Bubblegum by Heeley (due to the jasmine and tuberose) or 100% Love by S-Perfume (it must be the chocolate-cherry vomit vibe) – loud and sweet and medicinal. It’s actually rather well-made, but too sweet and floral for me. I think this one should be worn with caution, like all white floral based scents.
  • Love is Sweet is neither rose and iris in full unabashed bloom nor a handful of wilting petals; it’s a decent balance of florals peppered with a dusting of cinnamon and vanilla sprinkles. There are violets in there, too, which all make my allergies want to flare up.
  • Ode for Him to me was the most wearable of the 5 scents. I feel it is more unisex than masculine, with notes of coriander, cardamom, and a bit of rose and oudiness. Nothing for me personally to jump up and down about though, and to me all these fragrances have less than average longevity and sillage.

Jessica also does bespoke perfumes, which I think would be the cat’s meow if it is at all possible for a perfumer to really anticipate what a customer will love. Maybe it is possible, but I’m not yet convinced!


CognoScenti is “for those who know,” however you care to interpret that. Because this house has received several awards, from their website I decided to purchase their sample set, which includes their whole line – no.1 (Bergamot Sage), no.8 (Aldehylic Oakmoss), no.16 (Tomato Leather), no.17 (Civet Chypre), and no.19 (Warm Carrot). I admit I did go through no. 8 and no. 17 quickly, so they cannot have been unpleasant (sorry – I can’t remember what they smelled like, which says something?) but the remaining three I still have are either nothing much to sniff at or too out there, in my opinion. For me, no. 1 is too soapy, no. 16 too tomato-y, and no. 19 too carrot-y. Obviously I am not one who likes to smell of either soap or vegetables. The veggie replications were very unique, however! I would imagine that is what earned CognoScenti the awards. Definite points for that!

Lily Burmuda

Lili Bermuda is an old perfume house, with the earliest scent created in 1932 and the newest in 2013. The fragrances were made in collaboration with perfumers David Bothello, Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, Vito Lenoci and Jean-Claude Delville. I got their pretty Scent Library as a gift one year from my parents, who had visited – you guessed it – Bermuda. Of the eleven vials that came in the set, I have only half used one, and that’s because I was feeling grubby one day and found a just-in-case vial in my purse.

The fragrances included in the package included fragrances called Coral, Pink, Lily, Petals, Oleander, Passion Flower, Alegria, Paradise, Fresh Water, South Water and Calypso. If you take a wee visit to their website, they encourage you to “try them all to see which ones suit you best.” In my case the answer was none. How so? Well, I’m not up for outlining all 11 profiles here, but suffice it to say that they were simply all too pretty and soft and lacking in any umph or uniqueness, and though I cannot confirm for sure, having not really used them for a full test run, my guess is that based simply on the notes, they are not powerhouses in the longevity and sillage areas, either.

They all have a fresh, floral, summery feel to them, so they’d be appropriate for the hot and humid summer weather where I currently live in southern Kyushu (yes, I moved out of Tokyo!). Perhaps I will wear them to see if others might appreciate them more than I. I have a feeling that might be the case, since as I sniff them now, they definitely impart a feeling of quality, and for the price at which they retail, they bloody well should!

Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur

Get a whiff of this:

This afternoon you are at a polo match, sipping wine and shmoozing with riders and their horses in the stables after fine day of watching balls get whacked around by distinguished men mounted on beautiful creatures. There’s a little manure on your gorgeous leather boots, but not to worry. You rub your heel into the ground to coax off some of the crap, put down your empty class, and pop a toffee into your mouth. You head over to the biggest, blackest, and sleekest of the horses, give him a welcome pat, and then sit yourself down next to his rider, who is proudly oiling his saddle. You offer up formal words of congratulations to this winning team member, whose hair, you note, is as sleek and black as that of his horse. Without asking, you run your fingers along the soft leather of the saddle, which is getting slick and silky from the oil, and then you stick your nose into it, inhaling its sweetness, all the more delightful due to the caramel still in your mouth, and the sweat of the dark rider right next to you. You wonder if his compelling body odour is a result of the earlier game, his diligent fuss over the saddle, or perhaps your presence. And then you stop wondering as your face is drawn into the leather again, and you inhale, faintly aware of the residue on your boot.

This perfume is a glorious example of what a gifted perfumer can create when not pressured to fit within the constraints of working with major brand executives, who in turn have to appeal the mass market in order to produce what any corporation requires to thrive – profit. The concept for Dzing!, originally named Désir de Cirque, was the scent of the circus: woody sawdust from the ring, saddle leather, animalic tiger smells, caramel apples, canvas-tent-covered air. If you know what to sniff for, you might just be able to make out these elements.If you don’t know the conceptual blueprint, however, you it could be that you have a nose like that possessed by scent critic Luca Turin, who notes that Dzing! smells like some sort of paper, perhaps cardboard, which he defines as a comforting, subtle but succulent mix of wood, spice, and cream. This is due to the lignin in the recipe, which is the stuff in trees that prevents them from weeping, and is chemically similar to vanillin in composition.

Sitting in the most sought-after, well-worn leather chair in a cozy corner of a prestigious library with an old book in hand – this is what you might get out of Dzing!. Well, OK, add a feline companion to snuggle up to your neck, and pop a Werther’s Original caramel hard candy into your mouth for good measure.

The nose for this scent is the extremely talented perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, and she was able to create mystery in a bottle with this fragrance by ingeniously interlacing a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated textures together. This masterpiece is hands down one of my favourite perfumes – warm leather, animal fur, talcum, Bandaid strips, Cracker Jack, and spices. The juice is weird, but also sensual and tasty. It is a refined and sophisticated scent that dispenses with frills and saccharine prettiness, although the drydown is softer, sweeter, and also less musky. Or perhaps more musky? I admit I am probably not one who easily picks up on the gentler side of musk.

I love this scent so much that I perceive it as an idealized version of myself in animal form, a somewhat sweaty one. Some people find this fragrance bears similarity to Bvlgari Black – there must be a rubber note in there for some noses that I’m not picking up on, but I recognize that they are both highly unique and interesting scents. One of the most evocative descriptions of Dzing! that I’ve found was in a comment by Fragrantica member Giles Howe: It smells like “the skin of someone who was innocent until just a moment ago.” Indeed.

Dzing! is a unisex blend, but not a perfume enjoyed by all. I’ve read it described as scent that serves up notes of barnyardy, steaming-fresh dung. No, not the haze of human defecation or industrial cow manure, but rather the much more earthy and organic fumes from the turds of harmless, well-cared-for herbivores, or perhaps the little droplets that ooze out from puppies. Could this be the effect of the saffron? Poop or no poop, even if you do find this fragrance appealing, there is still a chance you may find all its weirdness overwhelming if you are a mainstreamer, and there is nothing wrong with that, in which case you might limit its use to those times when you are tired of ordinary orientals and soft, powdery florals. If you like Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle, you’ll likely have a place in your heart for Dzing!.

When I lived in Tokyo, I liked to enjoy Dzing! in late summer or fall when I was on walk about among trees, perhaps after a rainfall, or if I was parading in some upscale downtown zone, shopping for things I wanted but didn’t need. I see it as a weekend or evening scent, but as it lives closer to the skin after the first hour or so, you could get away with it at work, if you dare. Dare? Well I guess that depends what line of work you’re in. I wish it had more than average lasting power on me, but the projection is good enough to turn the heads (lovingly or in offense) of those you closely pass if you spray enough on. It’s works in winter for me, too, only then it reminds me of ski lodges. Not the alpine ones, but specifically the cross country ski lodge in St. Bruno, south of Montreal. You’d come into the little wooden shack at lunch time, flushed after a chilly gander around one of the trails, and be greeted by a smoky, crackling, warm fire and the smell of wax sliding over skis, being prepped for a second outing. Wood everywhere. Creaking floor boards. Hot beverages warming everyone’s hands. Leather ski boots drying by the fire. The breath of dogs panting and the laughter of kids. Memories!

Only a smidge of the original 100 ml remains in my beautiful bottle, the one containing the tiny, erotic image of a scantily-clad woman riding an erect tiger like a dance pole. Yes, Dzing! has that provocative side to it, suggestive to the point where I feel I might go red in the face if the wrong person, or perhaps the right person at the wrong time, smells it on me. And that makes it exciting to wear – like having sex in a semi-public place. I’m tempted to buy another bottle right away, lest it goes off the market completely (I’m not sure if it’s still in production).

From Fragrantica:

  • MAIN ACCORDS: leather, woody, musky, sweet, animalic, warm spicy
  • TOP NOTES: [Say what? No, this one goes straight to the heart, baby!]
  • MIDDLE NOTES: leather, white woods, saffron, ginger, toffee, cotton candy, candy apple, caramel
  • BASE NOTES: tonka bean, musk

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