Niche Fragrance Magazine


MemoryOfScent Christos

MemoryOfScent Christos has 11 articles published.

John Varvatos Platinum Edition and Dark Rebel: mainstream is not a dirty word

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My bottle of John Varvatos Classic met me on a cusp. I was looking for a replacement bottle for Donna Karan Fuel for men and I realised that it had been discontinued. At the time I had no particular interest in perfume. I was happy with one bottle at a time and when I went through it I carefully looked for something new to take its place. Sometimes a second bottle sneaked into my rotation but that was as far as I got. For the first time I felt that I had to have a refill but then my luck betrayed me. Fuel was discontinued and it was then that I realised that perfumes actually fall off production at some point. Up to that point it had never occurred to me that scents don’t live forever. So I started looking for something that would remind me of it. The only thing that came near to my nose was John Varvatos Classic. When I say near, I mean in the same town, not next doors, but that was quite acceptable at the time. It was a fruity suede with an antiquated vibe, it missed on the vinyl note and overcompensated with sweetness, but still it was a remarkable scent for its time. I have been following John Varvatos releases ever since and they are more often hits than misses. KEEP ON READING

Lancôme Sagamore: Boy or girl?

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Lavender happens to be a tricky note for me. It’s there in a huge proportion of fragrances but I only seem to be able to register two variants of its presence. It will either dominate the entire composition rendering it a soliflore or it will blend into the background diminished to an extra in the cast of ingredients. I have the same problem with fig leaf. I have very rarely seen uses of these two notes that manage to tread that fine line, be visible but also allow other players to have their say as to which direction the fragrance will take. In the case of fig leaf, Annick Goutal Nimfeo Mio is a characteristic example of a composition where yes, it’s all about the rough, wooly, palmate leaf, but in a unique way it doesn’t smell like a variant of  Diptyque Philosykos, the golden standard for this ingredient. It’s a completely new idea. The only lavender prominent scents that seem to offer a new take on lavender are (marginally) Gris clair…,  the short lived and criminally under-rated Tom Ford Lavender Palm and the old faithful Lancôme Sagamore. KEEP ON READING

Balmain Vent Vert 1991 and 1999 formulations: the question of sameness

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It seems that times are changing. Green fragrances were the undisputed kings of the 70’s. They were here long before that but their popularity hit an all time high in the 70’s. Estée Lauder Aliage, Givenchy III, Jacomo Silences, Jean Couturier Corriandre, just to name a few of the fragrances released around that time,  that were not only poignantly interesting but also hugely popular. Then the 80’s happened and as much as they brought a new exciting era for fragrances, they also brought an exuberance that made the self-controlled, self-sufficient gems of the previous decade seem out of place, outdated. The 80’s were all about being noticed and big flowers, spices and oriental notes get you there much faster. Balmain Vent Vert, one of the most well known representatives of the green genre, was born in 1947, an offspring to Germaine Cellier and the optimism of the post-war era. Germaine Cellier was a visionary perfumer who loved green fragrances. She facilitated one of the strangest unions in fragrance history by marrying Leather Master with Green Witch, in Robert Piguet Bandit, and in 1947 she unleashed the original version of Vent Vert which some credit as the first unabashedly green perfume. Unfortunately I have yet to sample a well preserved sample of that original formulation but a few months ago I found a modestly priced bottle of the 1999 formulation of Vent Vert by Nathalie Feisthauer: I knew that I wasn’t getting the real deal – after all Luca Turin holds Nathalie Feisthauer responsible for “defacing” the original idea – but I love anything green and I had to give this a try. After all how different can it be? And the bottle looks so cute, with that spherical cap, the lovechild of a thimble and a golf ball. Then a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get my hands on a bottle of the 1991 formulation by Calice Becker, one that is still considered as acceptable in comparison to the green dragon of the 1945 initial release. KEEP ON READING

Les Liquides Imaginaires Peau de Bête: cuddling with a beast

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Les Liquides Imaginaires is a line very close to my heart, partly because of their visual aesthetics and partly because of their olfactory presence. Presented in simple but evocative bottles, both functional and ritualistic, their scents dwell in an atmosphere of chiaroscuro, with pretty and challenging notes combined artfully. Their latest release, Peau de Bête, translates as “beast’s skin” and that’s exactly the kind of name that reels me in for a sample. Given the name, I was not surprised to find a prominent leather note in the opening. Leather however is a metaphor in perfume language, not an actual ingredient and there are many ways in which someone can imply leather. Here, leather makes a big entrance with the gasoline tinged civet note. I love civet and I always think of it as a confidence builder. The ogre with a heart of gold. It immediately sets a very well defined frame for the fragrance. It sits you down and makes it clear that there is no room for small talk. And this is exactly the way civet acts in Peau de Bête. There is no ambivalence as to what this perfume is about. It is not going to be about walks in the woods and herbs and blossoms. This is a fragrance about humans and their stories, told and untold. Civet is crowned with a fruity cherry and a medicinal saffron and the combination really takes the faecal edge off. There lies exactly the uniqueness of Peau de Bête: although it is a perfume built around civet, it doesn’t focus so much on its animalic origin but rather uses its ability to add a shadow around other notes. It doesn’t try to provoke directly but it aims to invoke introspection. To hint of stories that haunt by remaining untold . And in its development the original gasoline opening quite swiftly fades into a drydown of peppery, woody, creamy but dry sandalwood. This is the phase that made me smile because it cut through ten years of olfactory memories and hundreds of perfume smelled in that period and brought me back to my sample of the original Cumming launched in 2004 by Alan Cumming. This was another perfume that, in great part due to the double entente of the name, promised a debauchery of nasty animalic and human smells. It opened indeed with what I can only described as the smell of overused socks but quickly turned into a similar musty, dry, peppery sandalwood base. KEEP ON READING

Nabucco ΓΦΛ / LOV: a day in the desert

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Nabucco is a niche house that actually honours the classification. Their output is very slow, with only three releases since 1997, which is quite unusual by today’s standards. By now a new “niche” brand will emerge with at least six releases, an amber, an iris, a leather, a tuberose, a patchouli, a rose and a La-Vie-est-Belle-type of inedible praline. These are accompanied by a corporate storytelling emphasising the quality of materials, the creativity of the perfumer (on rent from a major chemical company), and a blingy packaging. Nabucco on the other hand released two perfumes in oil format in 1997, accompanied by a dense, hermetic story and they do not disclose their perfumer. Their packaging is monumental and although the price tag is hefty, they are still cheaper than, let’s say the Section d’Or line of Serge Lutens. They do not follow trends and they did not make a huge fuss about their 2014 release of ΓΦΛ / LOV. They describe it as a utopian fragrance and as much as one would be inclined to laugh with this ambitious description, Nabucco is actually the strangest and most ambiguous fragrance I have ever smelled. KEEP ON READING

Nobile 1942 Ponte Vecchio Colonia Maxima: the spirit of the 60’s

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Nobile 1942 Ponte Vecchio

One of the most undervalued lines that I know is Nobile 1942, an artisanal perfume house from Genova, Italy that remains true to niche perfumery traditions without ever trying to wax artistic. They claim to hand-mix their fragrances and they even hand-sign the bottles with your name or the brand of the retailer. I was lucky enough to smell all of their initial releases years ago, their first release Ponte Vecchio and a series of explorations of single notes, amber, musk, lavender if I remember well. I walked out of the shop with a bottle of Ponte Vecchio as I couldn’t resist the emotional load I had detected in this. Ponte Vecchio is not complex or at least it doesn’t come off as such. It is a simple, masculine dry woods scent but out of nowhere, it transported me into a Felini-esque, black-and-white snapshot of Italy and Europe in the 60’s. After the initial accord of freshly cut pale wood, textured with the splinters of the grain of the wood, it continues with an abstract smoky incense accord that slowly polishes the wood but also gives it a grey hue. For a brief moment I also smell a prosecco accord that smells of hot, sunny afternoons. Whiffs of a sharpened pencil, wood shavings and graphite powder alike, make this smell gentlemanly and serious. The base consists mostly of wood and musk, the kind of musk that reminds me of the nuclear and subsonic sillage of CK Be. In this one though the musk does not explode the way it did in CK Be but simply dresses the exceptionally dry heart of Ponte Vecchio with a sense of humanity. KEEP ON READING

Grossmith Golden Chypre: Mitsouko on antidepressants

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If you are not familiar with Grosmith, let me introduce you. Grossmith perfume house was founded in 1835 in London and with a line-up consisting of pure bottled orientalism managed to sore at the highest status of the perfume industry. With perfumes inspired by Japan, India, the Arab world they became famous for bottling magic for the privileged upper class and the royal courts of the Victorian era. The laurels of the 19th century however started to fail the company after WWII and the Grossmith family finally sold the house. The demise was devastating and by 1970 the perfumer to the British court was selling soap. Fast forward to the 21st century and Simon Brooke, the last descendent of the Grossmith family, a semi-retired and ,apparently bored, chartered surveyor. Upon rediscovering the almost forgotten reigns of his great-great grandfathers in the world of perfumery, he decided to revive the house. He bought back the rights to the name and was ready to reconstruct the initial formulas based on  photochromatographic analysis of vintage Grossmith bottles he found on eBay. Luckily however one of his cousins remembered that he had inherited some old ledgers which apparently contained the original formulas. KEEP ON READING

Czech and Speake Citrus Paradisi: paradise for citrus haters

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Citrus paradisi

Back in the mid 00’s, when I started searching for more than my local perfume shop had to offer, Czech and Speake were all the rage. Their Cuba was one of the first straight-up tobacco perfumes. Dark Rose slipped inconspicuously into oud-rose territory. Frankincense and Myrrh still remains a staple for incense lovers. In fact Czech and Speake were pioneers in the niche trend as their love affair with perfume started in 1980. What they did before that? They still are high end retailers of bathroom fixtures and male grooming accessories from London! The jump from that to perfume remains a mystery but it is a very successful one. KEEP ON READING

Nishane Mūsīqá Oud: what perfume to wear at a screening of “Batman vs Superman”?

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When I started exposing my perfume preoccupation in perfumista forums ages ago I stumbled upon two frequently asked questions that had me completely baffled. They are coming up far too often and are so inexplicably vague and unanswerable, yet it seems that some perfume lovers are desperately seeking for answers.

The first question is “What is the ultimate pantie-dropper men’s fragrance?” or cologne as American boys seem to call their fragrant waters for fear of coming off as too vane using “perfume”. Well my fumehead fellows, how can one answer this question? It depends basically on who the person before whom panties have to drop is. If you look somewhat like anyone that has ever graced with their face a promotional photoshoot for a cologne, don’t worry about it. Sooner or later some panties will drop! If however you belong to the rest of the earth’s male population, the question becomes even more complicated. It also depends on who is wearing the panties! So instead of seeking high and low for this elusive potion that will loosen the fabric of all women’s underwear (I think it’s bleach that eventually does the job after a few washes), it is a lot more pragmatic to wear any cologne that makes you feel happy and direct your attentions towards women who are already not wearing any panties. Makes sense I think! So having excluded model type perfume wearers and non-panties-wearing women, we are still left with a huge part of the population we need to help find their way to the bedroom. Guys I still don’t have an answer to this but my best guess is that if you pay a little bit of attention to the women standing opposite to you and you try to see them as who they really are (not just as pantie hangers) and at the same time yourselves are half decent at being a decent guy, the scent you are wearing will only play a minor part at finding a mate, There isn’t a single woman in the world that will loose her mind over a fragrance and there isn’t a single fragrance in the world that has the power to mask a bad personality. Fragrance is not a roofie!  KEEP ON READING

Beaufort London “Come Hell or High Water” Collection: three shades of smoke

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by Redd Angelo from

Beaufort London appears in the niche perfume world for the first time with a triptych of eaux de parfums under the collective name “Come Hell or High Water”. Under the creative direction of musician and writer Leo Crabtree, live percussionist of the mega group Prodigy, Beaufort promises a voyage in the darkest waters of British naval history. I can only suppose that whoever the perfumer behind these three innovative creations is, the technical guidelines he was given could only be: “Create a Firestarter!”. How else can I describe the sensation of smelling an entire perfume collection built around the core note of smoke. And I do not mean smoky vetiver, or branded leather. These perfumes smell the real deal: smoke as it rises from the flames of a fire, or to be more precise, from three distinct types of fire. Anyone who has messed around with aroma chemicals they will tell you that smoke essence is an extremely tricky ingredient. It permeates and consumes every other ingredient with a monstrous longevity and tenacity throughout its presence. I was intrigued to see how one could work with this material. Technically I am not sure this classifies as an aroma chemical because the smoke flavouring used in food is simply natural smoke collected in its passage through water. If you have ever tried to cook with liquid smoke you will know that more often than not it turns to be a disaster. Everything ends up smelling like the skin of smoked fish… How does the damn thing hold up in the kitchen of niche perfumery then? KEEP ON READING

Les Liquides Imaginaires: effervescent pleasure

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I first met this brand a couple of years ago in Munich while I was on a business trip which has been etched in my memory as the worst perfume shopping trip experience ever. Don’t get me wrong, there are nice perfume shops in Munich but there is also some weird stuff… Foray no1 was a seemingly nice pharmacy that had some nice classic scents like Knize on display. When I entered I discovered a true fragrance museum where super rare, vintage bottles were on display along with most of the “apothecary” style brands, ointments for sore joints and earplugs. All perfumes were arranged in a religious order, masculines on the right, feminines on the left and on the top top shelf, out of the reach of the pilgrims, vintage bottles of perfumes I have wanted to try for a long time. Rochas Femme, Halston, Jacomo Silences, vintage Vent Vert, all at a tantalising distance. I knew I had no chance at sniffing those as soon as the nonagenarian pharmacist crept from behind a wall in the back, dragging her feet and arched body and inquisitively looking at me above her heavy lensed spectacles. Things started getting really weird when I tried to head off to the feminine side of the pharmacy and she managed to drag her frail body in front of me, waving a forbidding index finger: “Nein, nein! Das ist für Frauen!” (“No, No! These are for women!”). Now I knew how transgender people feel trying to buy their transgender piece of garment…. I tried a couple of times more but every time she managed to muster what seemed to be every last breath in her body to protect the world of perfumes from cross-gender annihilation. KEEP ON READING

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