Niche Fragrance Magazine


Narada James

Narada James has 33 articles published.

Hi I am Narada! I discovered my love for all things fragrant after two years of living in France and running out of my sole bottle of cologne that I took with me, YSL L'Homme. Probably the greatest place on earth to run out of your signature scent. I tried to visit every perfumerie from Spain, all the way to Hungary. So, many of my reviews, stories and shorts may reference my travels. Enjoy!

Creed Viking: Lost at sea or ready to capture the world?

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Upon spraying Viking, I get an intense lavender note. It’s spicy and immediately reminds me of fougeres of yesteryears. Within the first 20 minutes, the lavender and peppercorn/pink pepper subside, at which point citrus/bergamot lightens the mood. The heart of Viking is seemingly the most unisex aspect of a relatively “masculine” offering. It’s where the rose emerges and a creamy sandalwood. (Think Cartier Declaration d’un Soir with a toned down rose note) The dry down is where the magic happens, albeit in a POST-IFRA chop shop, world. I’m met with oak moss, sandalwood, patchouli, and persistent lavender. KEEP ON READING

Value Proposition: Mahogany Woods by Bath & Body Works

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Why is a creation by Bath & Body Works a value proposition? Well, at the time of writing this, Mahogany Woods retails for $29.99, but could be had for roughly $15 out-the-door. I may be going out on a limb, but for $15, this is the best fragrance on the market that could be purchased for under $20. There, I said it. Even at its normal retail price, it’s one of the best in that “cheapie” bargain bin, $20-$30 region, we all know that bin – the one in aisle 2 of your favorite pharmacy, the bin that’s loaded with oft-forgotten brands like Escada, Stetson, Adidas.. Well, Mahogany Woods is a hell of a bargain, but far from bargain bin/cheapie territory. In fact, I think it rivals fragrances that cost 3 times, or even 5 times more from the designer and niche realm of perfumery. As cliche as it may sound, repackage and re-brand Mahogany Woods, throw it in a pretty bottle with all the sparkles and whistles, and slap a $300 price tag on it. It would still compete with the best of them. Why would you discontinue this, B&BW? KEEP ON READING

Bruno Fazzolari’s – Feu Secret: the floral blanket

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Somehow along this journey I’ve acquired a comfort scent and it’s none other than iris in its many fragrant forms. I was first introduced to iris on the designer side with Dior Homme and Dior Homme Intense. Immediately, I was drawn to these “lipstick-powdery-makeup bag” smelling offerings, that most manly-man wouldn’t be caught dead in. Iris has always impressed me, because it’s soft, delicate, and one of those “your skin, but better” aromas. Having never been scared to smell like a makeup bag, Dior Homme Intense and I paired quite well, I’m comfortable in my own skin and DHI just made it smell that much better. So, early in my fragrance journey iris has always been that one note I’ve sought after the most, hardly ever is it done up to my standards. Queue my Holy Trinity; Iris de Nuit, Silver Iris Mist, and Xerjoff’s Irisss, I figured it couldn’t get much better than those three. KEEP ON READING

Carner Barcelona Cuirs and Nasomatto Black Afgano: Are they similar enough?

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I’ve been hearing of these comparisons between Cuirs and Black Afgano for years. With Black Afgano being a LEGENDARY fragrance in its own right and one that I quite love, I figured it was time to give Carner Barcelona’s Cuirs a shot. Once I received Cuirs I gave it a week of testing, fully wearing, that left me with very little to be discovered. Having already reviewed Black Afgano over the years, it’s refreshing to be able to dissect it again.

What makes them similar?

Well, I want to say all around smell, because you’re immediately reminded by Black Afgano’s existence the second you spray on Cuirs. Upon initial spray, both parties leave you with a thick, balmy aroma. As far as notes, I get a blast of woods from both; burnished sandalwood, oud, smoked-incense, resinous balsams, neither of them having a smooth introduction. I think that’s where the similarities stop, just beyond overall vibe in the opening, Cuirs sticks to that linear script for its life on my skin, while Afgano has another three or four layers it weaves through. KEEP ON READING

Sampling House of Oud – Spoiler Alert: There’s no oud.

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Wind Heat

“For women and men”, ONLY if you crave to be all the way PC. This is as masculine as Victoria’s Secrets Annual Sale. Speaking of which, this smells of every Vickie’s Secrets I’ve been in. Wind Heat starts off with a fuzzy-fruity-rose, backed by loads of freesia and peony. I was hard pressed to find a formidable leather note lurking within, but to no avail, there is none on my skin. Wait a minute, this reminds me of a very run of the mill fruity-floral-musk scent, that just so happens to explode in a woman’s handbag – there’s the leather! And there is my stomach in knots! No thank you. KEEP ON READING

Samplin’ Carner Barcelona – Sandor 70’s

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A continuation of my thoughts from Carner Barcelona’s latest collection; Sandor 70’s, Rose Dragon, and Black Calamus.

With the name Sandor 70’s I didn’t know what to think. Maybe “Sandor” is a none-anglo name for sandalwood, I had hoped. The jury is out on that one. What I do know is Sandor 70’s has NOTHING to do with Game of Throne’s Sandor Clegane, or does it? The themes of suede and leather go well with fictitious Medieval Vikings, right?

It’s quite apparent the suede and leather are Yin and Yang in the composition. Both are equally prominent, but where you have a punchy, typical, yet smooth suede, akin to most suede notes I’ve smelled, there is also a rough and rugged leather juxtaposed in there. Weird and unique in the same light. There’s also a boozy accord lingering throughout the opening, its rum-y or gin-y, I honestly can never discern the two, but the suede and leather are doused in this boozy accord and nowhere did I see this in the note breakdown. KEEP ON READING

Samplin’ – Carner Barcelona – Rose & Dragon and Black Calamus

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There are common themes between these two; rose, incense, amber, but any fans of those could do no wrong by looking at both. As a fan of CB’s previous releases, but at the same time knowing some are a little ‘blah’, I was met with excitement, but no real urgent need to sniff these out. I’m happy I didn’t wait too long.

Carner Barcelona – Black Calamus

You’re hit with a barrage of notes upon the initial spray. At first, it’s hard to tell whether this is an incense based fragrance or amber, because there is heavy doses of both on my skin. While on paper, I get a pot of dark spices and a smoky rose (still incense). Throughout the opening I get the culinary classics, black pepper and coriander, their aroma weaves in and out of the layers of labdanum and incense. One could imagine, Carner Barcelona wanted to step away from their other creations as it’s apparent, Black Calamus is of higher quality than anythhing else they’ve released. There is a dry richness from the start, which only becomes denser while racing to the finish line, and that finish line doesn’t come for a while as I clocked Black Calamus in at 12+ hours on my skin. A few other scents come to mind, Puredistance Black with a hint of rose among many other smoky-ambers, but never have a found one with rose and spices to break up the monotony. KEEP ON READING

Samplin’ – House of Oud (House of — what?!)

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I was hesitant, but eager to explore the House of Oud. Hesitant, due to the name being 20% clever and 80% gimmicky. I was eager, because, HOLY SMOKES those are gorgeous bottles, am I right? It would be sacrilege to put anything less than liquid gold in them. Nonetheless, I dove in, not knowing which was which as the names are equally cringe worthy too.

Cypress Jade – It hits you with a blast of sweet, musky, iris for the first ten minutes. The iris is wet, green, but there is still a lingering dusty/powdery quality to it. Overly sweet petitgrain and florals stick out to me in the mid, this is by far the most feminine portion of Cypress’s journey on my skin – not really a fan of this at all as it’s sweet, delicate, but still vibrant enough to annoy me. Throughout the life of cypress on my skin, I was reminded by how smooth the whole composition was, there’s no point where it turns astringent, chemical, and I could not pick out any synthetics. Even in the drydown, it’s still a hearty composition with vetiver and cedarwood taking center stage well into the 12th hour. I have to say, there are some people out there that would absolutely love this; if you’re a musky-iris, yellow-florals lover. KEEP ON READING

Sampling’ Guerlain – Neroli Outrenoir: The greatest tea-based fragrance?

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Guerlain – Neroli Outrenoir

Per Guerlain Notes de tête : Petit Grain – Bergamote

Notes de cœur : Fleur d’oranger – Néroli – Thé fumé
Notes de fond : Graines d’ambrette – Mousse – Myrrhe

First thing first, be VERY liberal with this one; 5 sprays, 10 sprays, 20 sprays.. Just consider it lotion and lather in it, because it has about the same performance as Jergens on me.

Neroli Outrenoir is a tea lovers dream! Upon application I get a blast of smoky tea, mixed with myrrhe. At the same time, petitgrain give the opening moments this “aquatic” feel that luckily subsides rather quickly. Thé fumé turns into Thé vert in the heart as the neroli emerges, it gives it a creamy, milky quality, YUM! Imagine, green tea, with a pinch of whole milk added, much less smoky than the start. KEEP ON READING

Ménage à trois; Chanel Egoïste, Egoïste Cologne Concentrée, and Bois des îlles

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I went on a quest to a few months ago, to get my nose on “vintage” Chanel Egoiste. Vintage in that, it pre-dates the hack-job/reformulations for the 2000’s, whilst in fear of uncertainty, I was told to look for formulations in the 90’-93’ range. Holy Pandora’s Box! Conversations quickly turned from me looking for JUST a 5mL decant of vtg Egoiste, to “Oh, if you’re looking for old Egoiste, you must find Egoiste Cologne Concentree, its better!” or “If you like Egoiste and ECC, look for pre-Les Exclusifs Bois des illes!”, the fragrance community can be a real pain in the a** for my wallet.. Well, I walked that road, I fell in love, (still in love) but past the infatuation stages. The trio is perfect, Egoiste was “niche before niche”, the Cologne Concentree addition, was like strapping a turbocharger to the original formulation and Bois des illes, gosh, *mouth waters* BdI was already on Mt. Rushmore of fragrances. The questions is, must someone have all three? I think from a man’s point of view, they are all necessary to try – you can’t check out one without nosing down the other two, but presumably, most women’s first impression started with Bois and it can end there, here’s why. KEEP ON READING

Chanel – Bois des iles: Sandalwood, glorious sandalwood

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I’ve been on two perfume binges these past few months. One being Chanel everything, and the other being typical designer-counter, run-of-he-mill offerings. Both, I’ve neglected for so many years and both I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring for these past months. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on the glorious House of Chanel. Not that I don’t think there are any fellow lovers of Spicebomb Eau Fraiche out there reading, that would just be a Gold Fish next to the dolphin exhibit at Sea World, you didn’t come here for that. KEEP ON READING

Bois 1920 Vento nel Vento: The three-dimensional amber

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I’ve found that a lot of traditional ambers make me nauseous, for example, TFPB Amber Absolute, and Profumi del Forte Ambra Mediterranea, are too potent for me. So, it’s great to have come around to something that wears like a veil of silk and not fifty-layers of flame retardant Kevlar.

Vento nel Vento starts off with all the nauseating components I typically don’t like, less the nuclear size potency. The start of Vento is dominated by patchouli, heaps of resins; frankincense, benzoin, and labdanum. The patchouli comes off chocolate-y, with a slight gourmand tinge of raw cocoa powder. KEEP ON READING

CHANEL N°19: Cold and Uninviting

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I think us reviewers and enthusiast alike get so caught up in the scents that are; warm, cozy, happy, crowd pleasing, and these scents tend to evoke the same feeling upon their wearers. Well, Chanel Number 19 is the opposite of all that.

Chanel No. 19 immediately conjures up images of dank forest floors and herb gardens. It’s cold by nature, uninviting, and even mean. It could easily be the signature scent of Cruella de Vil. As I said, some fragrances are warm and inviting, but No 19 is don’t-fuck-with-me. It’s a cold barrier between you and everyone else, a glare without any expression or change in demeanor. KEEP ON READING

Oud Palao by Diptyque: Oriental and French chic

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Oud Palao is everything that I wanted from a predominately Oud/Rose fragrance and so much more. Oud Palao takes one of the more dynamic approaches in the realm of Westernized-Middle-Eastern splendor. What we have here, is just not skanky woods, doused with rose, but loads of; tobacco, honey, rum, vanilla, oud, and lastly, a lush, damp rose to top it off. That’s not all, patchouli and camphor play a harmonious few moments in this symphony of notes, I get smokiness undertones, as if, the woods in Oud Palao are smoldering, the second I smelled a chocolate-laced greenness, I thought of patchouli. O.P. is quite busy in the first 10-20 minutes, all of the notes peek their head out, not too long after applying, but quickly settles into a tobacco, rose, oud, patchouli concoction, with vanilla adding just enough sweetness. KEEP ON READING

My Old Kentucky Home: Kentucky Derby SOTD edition

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What other event in the world could one find; myself, Queen Elizabeth II, George Clooney, a Saudi Prince, and some of the world’s most-famous Pop Stars? Nowhere but the Kentucky Derby, of course! On a single day in May, a 150 000+ spectators spill into Churchill Downs, to view “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”. Sprinkled in between the stallions & fillies, seersucker suits, exuberant head-wear, gamblers, and drunkards are quite a few notable folks. So, while I’m william-nilliam with my choice of a SOTD that is, if I feel like dealing with the crowd (game-day decision), I pondered what would some of the other, more famous attendees be wearing? In the wake of smoke from a thousand-and-one cigars, spilt bourbon and Mint Juleps, allow me to wildly guess some scents! KEEP ON READING

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