Fragrance Reviews

Torre Berkana Fragrance Review


* Sweet grass, clay, and soap for a sweet dense scent.

* The sweetness slowly fades away as a sharp wood comes into focus.

* It’s quite dry, with a hint of resin and a supple leather.

* At this point, the scent comes in waves- being alternately present or hidden.

* The base is like a forest woods and dry grass with a slight hint of musk.

When I travel to Europe, I try to find perfume lines that aren’t in the US.  I was at Different Light in Berlin where I found the Torre line.  I enjoyed several scents, but it was the odd sweetness of Berkana that moved me.  The perfume surprised me.  Cedar and vetiver are two notes that my skin hates.  My skin basically turns those two notes into rancid monstrosities.  For some reason, the base of vetiver and cedar smells really good on me.  It just goes to show me that on my fragrance journey, I need to keep trying stuff even if I think I won’t like it.. because I will never know until I try.

Other opinions:
Extrait (In Italian)

Torre Berkana is available from Neos 1911, First in Fragrance, and Tuscan Made.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed, I purchased a bottle.

Fragrance Reviews

Blackbird Zola Jesus Taiga Fragrance Review



* Smoke bomb – dry smoke, with a bit of spice.

* The smoke dissipates a little bit but stays present throughout the fragrance development.

* Spices and resins come into focus.  Pepper and frankincense are the strongest, but there are several others present.

* Supporting all this is a sweet sandalwood covered in dry grass.

* It continues to soften to a subtly sweet base with hints of rum, incense, and resins.

Summary: Perfume lovers bemoan the way that mainstream fragrances are created for a high impact sales blitz.  It’s all about aggressively-friendly topnotes that lure you in.  You buy it and then are disappointed when it wears away after 45 minutes.  Zola Jesus Taiga is the exact opposite; it starts with an aggressive, almost angry, unpleasant top note.  It’s one of those times where you have to stick around to enjoy the journey and see where it takes you. From an intellectual perspective, the name perfectly describes the scent – Zola (harsh realism), Jesus (religious and spiritual rituals – like burning incense), and Taiga (cold tundra forests).  This isn’t an easy to wear fragrance but it is worth the experience.

Other opinions:

Blackbird Zola Jesus Taiga is available from Blackbird Website.

Disclaimer: Sample provided by Blackbird. Image courtesy of Blackbird website.


European Trip 2015 – Day 8 & 9 (London)

Let’s try to finish up my Euro trip by compressing my days in London down to one entry.

I started the first day by heading over to Roullier White.  I found the shop a few years ago and was quite impressed by the lines they carry.  Whenever I see stuff that I haven’t seen before, I get excited…

Catching my attention was Sharini, a natural line that doesn’t smell like naturals AND smells a lot more expensive than 55 pounds per bottle.  Musc D’hibiscus is gorgeous and full-bodied – a fruity musk with a sensual feel.  Ambre Essential is obvious but not basic.  Santal Blanc blew me away  – a creamy sandalwood spiced with anise.   It doesn’t sound right when your read it, but on skin, it totally sings.  Of the four they had, only Iris Veritable was a miss – it should have probably be called Iris Vegetable because it just smelled kind of wrong.

While I should probably not review the Electimuss line because I was involved with writing ad copy for it a few years ago, it was good to finally see the line on a store shelf.  The names have changed since I saw them, but three that stood out were Saggita (deep, rich, and sweet champaca), Venti (narcotic floral) and Amber Aquilaria (an addictive and intense amber).  When I wrote up the line there were 16 scents and I think that Michael Boadi did a a great job editing it down to 5 perfumes and 2 extraits.  Unfortunately the store didn’t have Black Caviar, which was my favorite of the initial collection – maybe it was sold out?

Also from Michael Baodi was the Bohdidharma line based on teas. I had heard about this line but never seen it, and after my splurge at Mariage Freres in Paris, I was intrigued.  Six were on display, and of course the two strongest piqued my interest – Black Orange Pekoe and Black Nectar.  If it was available, I would purchase a sample set from this line – with 20 scents, that would be a fun exploration.

The Nancy Meiland trio was a nice, approachable niche line.  Rosier was a good rose and Aqilaria was a serviceable oud.  Illumine stood out as a unique herbal flower scent.  It was interesting in a good way and had presence without feeling overwhelming.

The four scents from Sentifique were also quite good.  Party and Dangereuse are two I would explore further.  Testosterone is aggressive and a bit overwhelming.  Coming from me, that says a lot.

The Uer Mi line is based on fabrics – a unique concept that is well-executed.  Suede is an expensive-smelling leather scent (go figure)… and oh, Denim is quite sexy.  I can see this line getting a cult following as it gets into more stores.

I would love to go back and resniff the Sammarco line.  My nose was a little tired by the time I got to it, but Bond-T blew me away as an intense chocolate patchouli.

I ended up buying the Sharini Santal Blanc and the adorable SA / perfumes manager snapped a picture.   Of course, I love Bloom and Les Senteurs, but I would also encourage perfume lovers to check out Roullier White.  It is a bit off the beaten path, but they have several lines (described above) that simply aren’t carried anywhere else in London (or Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome).

From Roullier White, I headed back to the city to meet up with Danny, a friend from the Facebook perfume groups.  It is always more fun to sniff with a friend. Danny welcomed me to his office where he keeps his perfume collection in a locked series of cabinets.  It kind of blew me away how we had so many fragrances in common. He introduced me to the world of AbdesSalaam Attar and after sniffing Sharif, I realized that I need to make a pilgrimage Dominique Durbana shop the next time I am in Italy.  All I can say is wow.  After a nice chat we headed off to hit a few perfume stores.

I had mentioned that Selfridges wasn’t carrying Yohji Yamamoto scents anymore, so the boutique was our first stop.  I picked up a nice gift set that included some really nice shower gel.  Yohji Homme is an easy to wear daily scent.   We made a quit stop at Fenwick, which seemed a bit nouveau riche. I mean it was nice and had several great lines but, the vibe just wasn’t right for me.

We popped into Les Senteurs and even though they were closed for lunch, the SA opened the door and let us in. The Papillon line was new to me and Anubis was love at first sniff.  The leathery floral with a strong dose of incense just kind of knocked me out with its power.  Tobacco Rose and Salome were also quite exceptional.   There has been some buzz on Heeley Phoenicia and that it was being pulled from distribution for IFRA issues, so I was overwhelmed with gratitude when the SA made me a little sample  to explore at my leisure.  I must have been on an incense suede kick because Tom Daxon Resin Sacra also spoke to me as did the delightful Terre De L’encens from Cloon Keen Atelier.

I would have spent more time at Les Senteurs but we had a meeting schedule with Leo Crabtree, the nose behind Beaufort.   Danny and I caught an Uber and headed to Bloom.  I had been to the Bloom store in Spitalfields a few years ago, but this was my first time to the newer Covent Garden shop.

Let me just say that Leo reminds me of Carlos Huber (Arquiste) and Neela Vermeire.  They are fragrance lovers entrenched in scent culture who decided to make a line based on their vision.  I was introduced to Beaufort at Sens Unique, and Renata connected me with Leo.  Leo is a passionate perfume lover, who is well-educated about scent.  His perfume story is about British Maritime history.  At first, he tried to blend his own scents but realized that he would need to work with a chemist to create what he was aiming for.  1805 is about war at sea – with notes of gun powder, brandy, and sea water. Coeur de Noir is inspired by the papers of the sea with notes of leather, ink, and tobacco – like the library or sitting room of a seaman.  East India explores the luxuries and addictions of sea life – tea, tobacco, opium, and whisky.  All three scents are strong, robust and aggressive and fit the briefs of Leo’s vision perfectly.  I ended up buying East India and find myself a bit challenged by it.   It is not easy to wear but its worth the journey – if that makes sense.  This line is now available at Twisted Lily for the US and I couldn’t imagine a store more perfect for it.  I am hoping to interview Leo more in detail in the very near future.

Oh, and while talking about Bloom, not only are there several incredible lines there – the store owner Oxana is a firecracker who is not afraid to speak her mind.  I would love to go out one night drinking with her, Denyse Bealieu, and Josh Lobb just to hear the uncensored conversation.

After Bloom, I stopped into Miller Harris and sniffed their Editions – Rose Silence, L’eau Magnetic, and Tea Tnique.  Yes, the whole Tea thing is following me around.  About the scents, all three were nice.  Not thrilling, but nice.

The next day, I met up with my good friend Marion for some fun at Fortnum and Mason and Harrods.  Walking to the store, I found a delightful Church market where a wood carver was working with fir and birch pieces.  I’ve been on a mixed wood kick lately and picked up a large round coaster which caught my eye.

At Fortnum & Mason, on the advice of Neela Vermiere, we started at the tea counter.  I asked about the holiday tins which confused the Sales Associate.  Then I realized, that in London you are allowed (and supposed) to say Christmas, and then the SA pointed me in the right direction.  Honestly, the Christmas teas didn’t grab me-  though the tin was nice.  The Happy Valley Frost tea was exceptional, as was a sniff of the Goomlee first flush darjeeling.

We headed upstairs to the perfume floor and, well, it really is nice.  This is high end luxury with an old school vibe.   Actually, I will go into this more directly.  In the past, I’ve contrasted two stores in Paris – Jovoy and Sens Unique – describing Jovoy as having a male vibe and Sens Unique having a female vibe. Let me compare Fornum and Mason to the Sparkle Finger’s lounge (Roja Dove) at Harrods. F&M is established, old school, intelligent, classy and respectful.  Harrods/Roja Dove is pretentious, gaudy, tacky, and obnoxious.  F&M has gentle, intelligent, interesting, and intuitive sales associates.  The one we spoke to asked me what I liked and instantly directed me to three more that I really liked – one being Roja Dove Reckless Pour Homme.  The SAs at Roja’s lounge were semiliterate and only interested in quick sales.  Though once you escape the mirrored area, the individual perfume boutiques at Harrods are quite good.

Marion and I sniffed our way around F&M enjoying the conversation with the SA as he showed us several exceptional scents.  I sniffed Xerjoff Oud Stars Alexandra II – I have the original and the sequel is very similar.

Next stop was Harrods and had a nice walk around the perfume room downstairs.  Every cliche about department store perfume stores exists in the massive, yet claustrophobic space. Yes, they have every major line from the world along with some incredible exclusives.  They are the only store that stocked the incredible Stephan Hubert Lucas 777 line.  Walking around, the SAs are aggressive and there is no chance of personal space or boundaries.   We found the elevator and headed up to the Roja Dove lounge.  Looking around, I saw just about all the same lines that i saw at other stores in Europe — all on reflective mirrored counters.  The Alyson Oldoini line stood out as one I had not seen before and Cuir d’Encens was quite special.  I asked the price and when I checked online, I realized it was more than 50% higher in price than other perfume stores.  I made the mistake of buying a Salvador Dali perfume here two years ago and realized afterwards that I had paid TRIPLE what the price should be.  SO basically, the lesson is that if you see something you like in the Roja Dove lounge – check online before you buy.

After you leave the mirrored area, there are separate rooms for different brands.  The Ex Nihilo shop was quite nice and even more luxe than their store in the Vendome.  Venenum Kiss is exceptional, and I will try to track down a sample if it ever makes it to the US.  There was also a custom oil blending store that was pretty mind-blowing.  We sniffed and wore a few of the oils.  The prices were stratospheric, but considering this was the same department store that had a children’s department that featured Moncler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace — for babies and children… it kind of fit.


European Trip 2015 – Day 7 (Paris)

iunxJust like visiting Jovoy is an essential part of any fragrance lover’s trip to Paris, so is a visit to the Hotel Costes to say hello to the beloved “soup nazi” Ronald.   Of course, don’t touch the bottles, but do smell all the lovely scents.  I had heard there were three new IUNX perfumes from Olivia Giocabetti, but I didn’t see them there.  I asked Ronald and after some prodding, he mentioned they were only available at the standalone IUNX store.  Now, I must say that as a perfume lover that this is quite idiotic.  The Hotel Costes store is known as the home of IUNX fragrances and to be honest, if I hadn’t asked (and badgered) Ronald, I would have never known that there was another IUNX location.  The idea of having IUNX scents only available at a separate store is just weird.  I would be willing to bet that if I hadn’t mentioned the new scents – most of y’all wouldn’t even know about them.

ron-iunx-saI trekked up Rue De Tournon and sniffed the three new IUNX scents.  Eau Ivre (03) is a vibrant green scent with a powerful licorice/absinthe top note that stays present throughout the whole scent.  Eau Azteque (04) is slightly animalic with a musky note and a slight hint of root beer. It gets a bit peppery and the base is a spicy though subtle vanilla.  Eau Qui Pique (Q) is an odd one. It reminds me of L’ether with amped up pepper and ginger.   I wanted to spend more time with the scents but didn’t want to commit to 150ml of each one, so I picked up travel spray refills of each which are a great value at 55 Euros for 2×20 ml.  The sales associate at the IUNX store was really sweet and very knowledgable.  Though it felt really weird sniffing the electronic flowers and experiencing IUNX scents without Ronald as my tour guide.

On my way to Bon Marche, I popped into L’artisan Parfumeur and sniffed the newish Noir Exquis.  It’s a big gourmand with chestnut, vanilla, orange, and coffee all screaming for attention.  I really liked it and will be hunting down a sample to play with when I get back to the US.

chairI walked around Bon Marche and have to say that it feels more luxe than Printemps and Galleries Lafayette.  Maybe it’s because it is a bit off the beaten track and it wasn’t so packed full of people.  I happened upon the home fragrance section and found several collections of water soluble vaporizer scents.  My Muji vaporiser scents my apartment and makes me very happy, so finding some new scents to play with was a treat.  From the Millefiori line, I picked up Grape Cassis, Vanilla and Wood, and Mela & Cannella.  I can’t wait to use them when I get back.

mariage-freresPassing by the Mariage Freres minishop, I realized that I needed to go back and hit the big store in the Marais.  I am so glad that I did.  I’ve been listening to the Chandler Burr book ‘The Perfect Scent’ on Audible and he mentioned the creation of the Bulgari tea scent and how it was inspired by teas from Mariage Freres.  I spent as much time sniffing tea as I did sniffing perfumes at Jovoy!  I splurged on a few first flush Darjeelings, an insatiable Black Orchid, Assan Koilnari that made me melt, a lovely Birthday tea, and a delectably milky Blue tea.  I picked up this black tea called “I have a Dream” which was in a rainbow box.  It had fruity notes – go figure.   Talking to the incredible helpful SA, he mentioned that they provide tea to several perfume houses like Dauphin, Serge Lutens, Lancome, and Louis Vuitton.  Remembering that I was going to meet Neela Vermeire later that night, I picked her up a little treat also.

ron-guerlain-saWhile on the tea kick, I remembered Victoria mentioning that the main Guerlain boutique had exclusive teas as well.  I stopped by there and sniffed teas inspired by Shalimar, L’Heure Bleu, and other classic scents. I picked up a few for myself and holiday gifts.  The lovely SA packed up my bag so nicely and was horrified when I stuffed it into my backpack.  Like I am going to ride the Metro with a big old Guerlain bag.  On the way out, I saw another exclusive Ne M’oubliez Pas – Do Not Forget Me.  At 500 Euros for 125 ml of extrait, it isn’t something that I would forget.  I sprayed some on myself and it is a big classic perfume – floral, cinnamon, plum, and amber.  Definitely unforgettable but at that price, unpurchasable either.

amazing-braidsOn my way to the restaurant to meet Neela, I saw this beautiful woman walk by with the most amazing braids in the world.  I asked her to let me take a picture and she was incredible flattered.  Could you imagine how long it took to make those braids?

ron-neelaChatting with Neela is always a highlight of my Paris trip.  A lot of what we talk about is personal or off the record, but I can say that she let me sniff mods of two upcoming scents.  I can also say that I am completely enamored of her new Pichola scent. It feels like a mashup of Bombay Bling and Trayee, two of her scents that I love.  Cinnamon, floral, sweet, and joyous, it is incredibly vibrant, joyous and celebratory – a perfect reflection of our time together and my time in Paris as a whole.