Niche Fragrance Magazine


Claire Vukcevic

Claire Vukcevic has 127 articles published.

My name is Claire, I'm a 39-year old mother of two, and I am a freelance writer and consultant. I love perfume, any perfume, practically all of 'em. Other interests such as writing, reading, and painting fall tragically behind the perfume. It's a hobby that tends to be all-consuming (of both my time and my money).

Cierge de Lune by Aedes de Venustas

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If you were to define the late 1990’s, early 2000’s by a smell, you’d do worse than point to sultry floral vanillas such as Hypnotic Poison (milky almond), the original Dior Addict (boozy night flower vanilla), Organza Indecence (spiced eggnog), and Kenzo Amour (creamed rice). These perfumes all share a faintly sleazy, morning-after-the-night-before quality, like a woman who stumbles out of a bar at 6am, mascara smudged, and clothes reeking of cigarette smoke.

Castaña by Cloon Keen Atelier

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Have you ever felt like you’ve missed the boat on a certain brand or a fragrance? I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling. Given the depressing frequency of botched reformulations and senseless axings, the life of a fragrance enthusiast is often fraught with the fear of missing out or, worse, the agony of knowing that you failed to strike while the iron was hot.

I’m no stranger to missed chances myself. I arrived too late on the perfume scene to scoop up two fragrances that would later become big loves of mine, namely Guerlain’s Vega and Attrape-Coeur. I dithered on Dior Privée Mitzah until it was gone – ditto Eau Noire. I had a bottle of Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’Une Fete, and stupidly sold it; by the time I’d realized my mistake, that too disappeared into the ether, along whatever raw material that made its production impossible. Other bottles carelessly sold or swapped away were Fendi Theorema, a bottle of pre-1950’s Chanel No. 5 extrait, and a large decant of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit that I missed desperately the minute I’d mailed it off to its lucky recipient. I can almost feel you all wincing out there, so I won’t continue. I’m embarrassed. KEEP ON READING

Al Waad (Promise) by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle

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The ad copy for Al Waad (Promise) by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle reads as follows:

“Frédéric Malle celebrates two precious varieties of rose in the Promise Eau de Parfum.

A harmonious blend of rose essence from Bulgaria and rose absolute from Turkey are lifted by apple, pink pepper and clove, and bound to a sensuous base of patchouli, cypriol and labdanum for a truly unbreakable accord.”

I agree with the “truly unbreakable accord” bit. I sprayed this on at 2pm yesterday and as of 2pm today, Promise is still there. But while one can’t argue with its performance, I’m ambivalent about whether it’s outstayed its welcome on the piece of skin real estate stretching from my right wrist to inner elbow. KEEP ON READING

Tabac Blond versus Tabac Blond

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Lately, I’ve been testing dupe oils against the original fragrances to see how they measure up. It’s for the attar book I’m writing – I realized that dupe oils fall into the broad category of concentrated perfume oils and that people are intensely interested in them. I went into the exercise reluctantly, fully expecting to hate the dupe oils on principle for lazily copying someone else’s hard work. And I do.

But I’ll admit: I learned some interesting things. Chiefly, that (a) dupes succeed best when they’re copying a fragrance with a simple structure, like Jo Malone perfumes and some of the Tom Fords, (b) that some dupes are so scarily close to the original that it becomes very difficult to justify shelling out for the original, no matter how much that makes me grit my teeth, and finally, (c) one can be perfectly happy with a dupe – ecstatic even – until you wear it side by side with the original. KEEP ON READING

Histoires de Parfums Irrévérent and Outrecuidant

in Reviews/Thoughts by

Irrévérent and Outrecuidant are two of three new releases by the French brand, Histoires de Parfums (the other one is Prolixe, which was unavailable when I was buying samples). I’m always interested in sampling the new releases from Histoires de Parfums, as it was one of the first niche houses I loved, but in the last few years, I just haven’t been able to keep up. Luckily, while browsing a French site, I spotted samples of the newest Histoires de Parfums fragrances and just jumped on it. And I’m glad I did, because both are pretty darned great. KEEP ON READING

Byredo Bal D’Afrique – Universal Adapter

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I keep trying to write about Byredo’s Bal d’Afrique but it’s hard because it keeps coming out more as an apology for liking it than an actual review.

I have always had an aversion for things or people that are too widely liked. Anything that seems to receive universal approval fills me with suspicion and the desire to avoid it at all costs. Ugg boots sure look comfortable but I’d gnaw my leg off with a dull incisor rather than put one on. The very notion that so many women fantasize about George Clooney makes him as attractive to me as a used tissue. I very nearly un-coupled my husband when he bought our son a fidget spinner. KEEP ON READING

Black Gold by Ormonde Jayne

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In my journey through the world of fragrance, I’ve found it easy to ignore Ormonde Jayne, its quiet English classicism at odds with my quest for the strange and the shocking. There’s a certain arrogance that goes along with huffing extreme fragrances such as M/Mink, Patchouli 24, or Mazzolari Lui and living to tell the tale – a little like Johnny Knoxville, happy to have his balls smacked with a plank as long as there was video evidence to replay later.

But friends, to do that too long is to underestimate the sheer comfort of things that are beautiful or classically built. The things that made me overlook Ormonde Jayne fragrances the first time around – their subtlety, their easy grace, their quietness – are exactly the things that make me appreciate them now. KEEP ON READING

The Smell of Learning: Byredo Bibliothèque & Other Stories

in Lists/Thoughts by


Like most people, I love the smell of books. But my search for that book smell in perfume form has proved a problematic and often frustrating one.

Part of the challenge has been figuring out what it is that I want, exactly. Do I want to smell literally like a book? No, as it turns out, I don’t. Perfumes that smell literally like paper or ink are too on-the-nose for me. The best perfumes are those that bring you only 50% of the way, like those mood rings that require body heat for activation. A perfume that does all the heavy lifting for my imagination is no fun at all. KEEP ON READING

Smoke, Woods, & Resins: Top 15 for Fall/Winter

in Lists/Reviews by


2016 has been a bad year for celebrity deaths and an even worse one for celebrity presidential elections, so I’ve found myself craving and wearing mostly woody, resinous perfumes that perform like one long howling basenote, working my tired neck muscles like a Russian massage therapist. This year, no roses, no leathers, and no ambers – just a long line of calming, resinous woods that make me feel like I’ve slipped into the Nirvana of a silent forest, isolated from all the problems of the world around me. KEEP ON READING

Vento nel Vento by Bois 1920: A Rich and Satisfying Treat

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Vento ne Vento by Bois 1920 is one of the most satisfying fragrances I’ve worn in a while. Like Dior’s Mitzah, Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute, the recent Contre Bombarde 32, and Bois 1920’s own Real Patchouly, Vento nel Vento blurs the lines between amber, incense, spices, and woods, making it rather difficult to pin down. Which is exactly what I like about it.

Listen, this is not ground-breaking stuff. But it is a good kitchen-sink of a thing that’s absolutely perfect for when you feel like wearing something oriental-ish without condemning yourself to a full day of enough straight-up amber to put you in a sugar coma or, worse, a monastic incense that feels like a hair shirt by dinnertime. This gives you everything rolled into one – amber, resin, smoke, spice, sugar, patchouli – boom! And you’re done. KEEP ON READING

Rundholz 03.Apr.1968: Stollen-Infused Incense

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I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Rundholz 03.Apr.1968, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since I also fell hard for al02 by biehl parfumkunstwerke, by the same perfumer, Arturetto Landi. This is obviously a perfumer who likes to balance out bitter resins with mulled wine and stewed fruits. I bet he is the kind of man who would never take his morning espresso without something dolce on the side, an amaretto or a ricciarello perhaps. My kind of man, in other words.

What Landi has done with 03.Apr.1968 is to take the minimalist structure of church incense and flesh it out with a gaudy array of rich, bitter, and tooth-rottingly sweet flavors. It smells like a fat wodge of Christmas cake doused in brandy and set to burn on a priest’s censer alongside a hulking lump of frankincense. Underneath these smoky, soiled-fruit aromas, there is an enticing whiff of heliotrope, a huge purple chunk of marzipan charred at the edges. Smoke fights with burned sugar, and we all win. KEEP ON READING

Au Coeur du Desert by Andy Tauer: L’Air Speaking with its Indoor Voice

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Au Coeur du Desert by Tauer Perfumes is the extrait version of L’Air du Desert Marocain. But certain nuances have been dialed up and some down, so that while it is recognizable as a twin to the original, it is definitely a fraternal rather than identical twin. Those who love L’Air will love Au Coeur too; but maybe those who found L’Air too demanding to wear may find a version that suits them better in Au Coeur.

The petitgrain in the topnotes has been turned up a pitch and extended far into the heart. This drenches the scent in a bracing, citrusy sourness that momentarily reads as very masculine, petitgrain being a popular feature of fresh, lemony aftershaves. The citrus is so bright and piercing that it throws the other notes into deep shade, making the cedarwood and patchouli seem darker. If L’Air du Desert Marocain was the red-gold of the desert sands and the harsh glare of the sun, then Au Coeur is a melting chocolate brown, the color of the long shadows of a log cabin lit only by the fire. KEEP ON READING

Serge Lutens Baptême du Feu: Dry Ice and Freshly-Fired Guns

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It’s the final moments before the band appears on stage. I’m right at the front and I can feel the tension in the air as the crowd pulsates restlessly behind me. We’ve all been waiting too long and now it feels like something is about to happen. I taste metal in my mouth. The air crackles with the peppery smell of dry ice. Through it all, I can smell the aftershave of the man next to me and I wonder if he’s wearing Insensé, because it’s sharp but also floral. I don’t know whether I feel threatened or excited. KEEP ON READING

Sammarco Naias – Deconstructing Violet

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When I heard that Giovanni Sammarco had shown mods of a yet-to-be-announced violet perfume called Naias at Pitti to a couple of friends, I began to salivate. Then, after wiping the drool from my keyboard, I asked for a sample. (More likely, I begged).

For the past year or so, violets have been a sort of secret passion of mine, and I’ve been collecting samples and even small bottles of some of what I see as the standouts in the genre. Opus III for a grand, oriental violet, Stephen Jones for weird crunchy space rocks, vintage Jolie Madame for leather, Insolence for trashy charm, Aimez Moi for kittenish cheer, Bois de Violette for candied darkness, and McQueen for grungy face powder. But each violet added to the collection shrinks the space left for others – could Naias really bring something new to the table? KEEP ON READING

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