Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Category: Perfume Reviews (Short) (page 1 of 2)

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!

Samples from Rania J.

Rania J. (short for Rania Jouaneh) is the nose behind – as well as the name of – a beautiful line of natural perfumes from Paris that contained 5 fragrances at the time I sampled (now there are more). Her earliest fragrance was only created in 2012. When I discovered Rania J., I was delighted to find that she sells samples of all her perfumes, so of course I ordered them all. The samples arrived by post very quickly and I loved her personal touch of a card with note giving thanks, with my name spelled correctly. With my name that tends not to happen frequently, and the personal touch was very pleasing.

Rania grew up in the Middle East and Africa, so it is no surprise that her familiarity with smell of jasmine trees, the aromas of spices sold in local markets, and the scents emanating from souks and African bazaars influenced her when creating her modern, sophisticated, and sensual fragrances. Her creations pay homage to nature, respecting rare essences and the olfactory richness and complexities they contain. Her perfumery is guided by environmental sustainability and humanitarian values, and her natural essences and essential oils are procured directly from producers and distillers who use traditional methods to obtain their natural materials. She sees perfume as an accessory, “worn as jewelry for the skin.” I concur, Ms Jouaneh, and I love your skillfully constructed and well-balanced fragrances! The bottom notes in her perfumes are tried and tested ingredients that make her scents thankfully go on and on and on.

Rania J. fragrances are represented by the Jovoy Company, and you can purchase a bottle or sample set of her creations from the company site. Her perfumes below were launched in 2012-13 and are available in 50 ml EDP for just under 90 € a bottle. She has added another to her line since I ordered my samples, called Tobacco Habanero.

Ambre Loup

This scent skips the top notes and goes right to the heart, in which an all-consuming amber takes over the skin. That’s why it is long-lasting with a heavy sillage. It’s a warm, sensuous and mysterious scent, and is my favourite of the collection, followed closely by Oud Assam. It bears some semblance to Kilian’s Amber Oud, which is not surprising, considering the name. Ambre Loup is reminiscent to me of a chilly but sunny autumn day in eastern Canadian suburbia when you are wearing your coziest of sweaters, taking a walk and detecting the scent of sweet and savoury burning leaves coming form somewhere in the neighbourhood. It has an almost foody (but not gourmand) feel of of molasses with a pinch of cinnamon and spice and a shot of vanilla. Imagine the amber ousting the tobacco and taking over in Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. Still, I wouldn’t say amber is quite begging to play center stage in this scent, as it is tamed by the labdanum and guaiac wood. I couldn’t easily disagree with anyone who claimed this was a masterpiece, as it offers up some bloody flawless, full-bottle-worthy olfactory bliss!

Oud Assam

This scent is easily defined as a masculine fragrance, with a pure oud playing center stage softened up with lots of vetiver. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by women, as yes, I do love this alluring, addictive, and sexy scent that is happily lacking in much of the medicinal qualities that are known to accompany agarwood in fragrance, although that is not to say it isn’t fecal and pungent. Yes, for me an image of King Alobar in Tom Robbin’s Bohemian saga, Jitterbug Perfume, which includes lots fun, comical, carefree and spunky-funky activity of the carnal nature, comes to mind. The almost Christmas-y orange start pulls you in, and then takes you on a dark, warm roll not quite in the hay, but in some complex earth and leather, including an incense-y vibe that comes in after 30 minutes or so, smoldering onto the skin with plenty of balmy smokiness, and no sticky, heavy or cloying feel. Once in its later phases, it’s the type of scent that you forget you are wearing while running some errand that involves other sensory input, like going to an outdoor market, and then a breeze grabs you and releases your own scent up to your nostrils, reminding you of how divinely dirty you smell and pasting a sneaky smile to your face.

Jasmin Kâma

This fragrance was created in honour of Kâma, the Indian god of love. It’s a sophisticated, fresh, and pure jasmine soliflore marketed at the ladies.  Sandalwood is more expensive than cedar, and on the samplers I received, sandalwood was the woody note listed. Fragrantica, however, lists cedar for that note in this fragrance. It probably makes not that much of a difference to my shnoz. This scent is a delight to jasmine lovers, and the jasmine here is earthy, dank and delicious, with powdery cake batter powder and slightly bitter dried fruit in the drydown. The patchouli, wood and jasmine form a lavish, very chilled-out accord, and the musk in the background makes it sultry and anamalic. It’s loud and sexy, but very approachable once you get to know it.

Lavande 44

The aromatic intensity and elegance of dreamy, herby lavender are enveloped with woody, smoky notes of vetiver and cedar wood here. The vanillic Tonka bean and the patchouli give an aspect of warmth and sweetness to the accord, powerful but delicate. It is a sensual, very unisex blend that is assertive at first, until the boozy tonkas tone down the show. Lavender stimulates one’s creativity, and as such I deliberately tried on this scent while focusing on a writing project for work, and very much enjoyed the sweet calming effect it seemed to have on my brain.

Rose Ishtar

This is a fresh powdery and feminine fragrance of spicy rose with a slightly gourmand note. The rose is a classic one that invites your nose into the whole flower as you inhale, trying to bury it completely into its soft, velvety petals. It has a woodsy, smoky drydown that I really like, with the patchouli only lurking, with no threat to dominate, in the background. There is a jammy quality that probably comes from the cassis, giving the scent a tasty, berry edge. Reviewers elsewhere have picked up tonka bean and guaiac, and if those notes are indeed there, they would definitely explain more of this gourmand nuance. Guys who are into rose would appreciate this relaxing, natural-smelling scent. I have ranked this scent last in my order of preferences, but that is simply because rose is not my favourite. Compared to the first two fragrances listed above, its projection and longevity are less, but not terribly lacking.

Samples from Zoologist


The mix of cute and novel animal characters dressed like refined gentlemen with sophisticated, quality packaging make this fragrance house out of Toronto delightfully eclectic. One visit to the website after finding out the brand was Canadian (Go, Canada!) brought me quickly to the check out page to purchase a sample set that was soon to be waiting for me on a visit home to Canada from Japan.

The line is very animalic (surprise, surprise) and you, too, can get on the wild side with Zoologist Perfumes. Creative director for this collection is former video game maker Victor Wong, whose infatuation with fragrance started on a trip to Quebec City where he found the scent of complimentary hotel toiletries intriguing. Hats off to him for creating an original, playful line inspired by different animals and being proudly vegan at the same time. Instead of having notes like musk, castoreum, or civet in the background, as many exquisit scents do, the line so far places those notes the center of the fragrances (without managing to use any real musk, castoreum, or civet). Interestingly, none of the perfumes come across to me as fecal or barnyardy. Perhaps due to the vegan substitutes? At the time I received my samples Zoologist (quite a while back now) there were only three scents from this newer perfume house, but now there are more.

What has proven very impressive about this house is its innovative vision of designing a brand where animals serve as the focus of inspiration – their behaviors and environments studied – the results interpreted through a detailed metaphor of scent. I feel there is great coherence with concept and content, and it should be applauded that such detail and richness in the interpretations can be achieved without touching real animalic essences – indeed sometimes without touching synthetic animalic materials! I guess it is not like there is much of a choice these days when so many natural essences, not just animalic, are being banned.

1) Rhinoceros

“Massive and stubborn, the Rhinoceros takes stock of his territory under the unrelenting sun. His weathered hide protects him from the merciless heat and eroding drum of sand in the wind, as he protects his domain.”

“Under the searing gaze of an unrelenting sun, the ornery Rhinoceros surveys his dusty territory. A tough, battered hide is his armor against the erosive onslaught of sand, whipped into a frenzy by a hot, merciless wind, as he stands strong, defending his domain.” (updated description)

Rhinoceros by perfumer Paul Kiler was launched in 2014.  Rhinoceros Eau de Parfum is an authentic leather jacket fragrance, livened up with several shots of dry and boozy rum and laced with tobacco. There is some sage and lavender chucked somewhere in the mix, and I adore the background of amber, vetiver, woods and smoke notes drifting in. The bergamot invisibly balances it out into a musky, enigmatic, and alluring accord. Many of these notes are traditionally masculine, and while I think that for my personal tastes it could do with a little more sweetening up, this is a gorgeous scent that I would definitely wear often were I to get a full bottle. I’d definitely enjoy smelling this on a man.

2) Beaver

“A river pools in the clearing of a peaceful wood. Wild flowers mingle in the undergrowth. This is where the beavers build their kingdom.”

“Beaver Eau de Parfum invites you to slip away to a cozy family lodge. A tranquil river encloses the den in its rippling embrace as it glides beneath the blossoms of lush linden trees lining the banks. The breezy aroma of the green, floral grove washes over you, just before you duck inside to be welcomed by leathery hints of musky castoreum*. As it mingles with the moist, woody note of freshly hewn timber, it strikes you just how sexy and dapper this perfume is, and you sink into it, letting yourself be enfolded in its surprising elegance.” (updated description)

Beaver launched in 2014 by Chris Bartlett. Beaver Eau de Parfum opens with a quick, 2-second breath of subtle citrus and a soft swish of fresh air carrying linden-blossoms. It then immediately trails into the suggestion of a sour, impossible-to-miss castoreum blended with iris, with faint undertones of smoke and vanilla interwoven with earth. At the end you get crisp cedar wood soaking in a warm amber bath. Interestingly, you also get this tinge of ash – not as in a cigarette ashtray smell, but as in residual campfire smoke. Very nice!

I don’t know how the perfumer pulled off that synthetic beaver musk (castoreum) as the main punch to this scent, but it wasn’t too shabby, and I found the whole composition quite earthy and even elegant. Beaver is amazingly not a stinky, skanky composition that you would expect if the contents feature prominently the likes of that glandular funk exuding from the industrious, adorable Canadian animal. Although there is a slightly raunchy, dirty vibe here, it is also a cozy, lovable one, and the scent is quite wearable. I think that’s due to the floral addition. If you like the outdoors, but at the same time like to smell sophisticated, this fragrance is for you. Although it definitely has a masculine edge, this can certainly be worn by women who like to smell deliciously musky, earthy, and redolent. I can’t help myself – must regress: Yo, babe – I smell your Beaver. It makes me want you nearer.

Even though named after a beast, this scent is not a beast-mode projector, it being a musky scent (musk lives closer to the skin). It lasted 6 or 7 hours to me when I tried it, very quiet in the last half. I think this is a mature and versatile perfume that works anytime except in perhaps extremely hot weather, but for evenings, I’d reach for something sweeter.

Note from Zoologist: “In 2016 we improved the formula by redesigning the linden-blossom top notes accord, removing the smoke and ash notes, and enhancing the base notes accord with even higher quality musks. We also introduced a light leather note, an attribute of the real castoreum musk.”

Umm, I guess I will need to get a new sample. I like the idea of an addition of leather and better musk, but the removal of the smoke? Not sure…

3) Panda

“The adorable Panda is a born charmer and a true ambassador of peace. Indigenous to the Sichuan bamboo forests, the Panda’s natural habitat is a majestic mosaic of dewy greens and enchanting aromas.”

Panda was launched in 2014 and the nose behind it is again Paul Kiler. Panda Eau de Parfum is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves (or perilla – plant from the mint family known as shiso here in Japan). The scent starts of peppery –  sichuan pepper, to be exact. Then you get osmanthus and juicy mandarins and lilies. I was expecting a light and orangey scent to pour out of Panda, and although it is light, there was not as much citrus as I had anticipated. The bamboo vibe was fresh and interesting, though, and the fragrance did not disappoint. The composition was watery, though the minerals and metals I detected gave that water a chlorinated feeling. I felt as if I were sitting in my parents garden pool and a panda nonchalantly came out of the back forest to share some unripe bamboo with me. I offered him some green tea and a mint in return.


4) Hummingbird

“From the ethereal perspective of the exquisitely adorned hummingbird, the world is an endless kaleidoscope of colourful, fragrant blooms offering up their tempting delights. An insatiable desire for sweetness propels the hummingbird as it floats from flower to flower, sampling the nectar with a gentle touch of its delicate tongue. Retreating to its lichen and moss-lined nest, it settles into the cozy cocoon and dreams of sweet ambrosia.”

Yes, I got myself a sample of this more recently via Scent Trunk. So glad for it! The nose behind Hummingbird is Shelley Waddington, and Zoologist launched the scent in 2015.  This is an extremely appropriately name scent, as what I get out of it at first whiff is a fruity floral nectar. There is honeysuckle, mimosa, lilac, and peonies dancing lightly around in the air, kicking up a pixie dust made of pear, cherry, and honey sugars. Once exhausted, the flowers float down to rest on a creamy bed of amber, musk and wood. Pretty, sophisticated, and very romantic! But the perfume does take a while to get tired. One is reminded of the strength of the Hummingbird – its powerful, precise, and incredibly fast wing movement.

Zoologist Perfumes, I look forward to sampling your newer additions: Bat, Civit, Nightingale, and Macaque! The first four have all be real winners in my book, so my expectations are high. Zoologist bottles are 60 ml (2 fl oz) in size and have a parfum concentration of 20%. They retail for $125, presumably Canadian. None of their eau de parfums contain animal products.

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