The news of O/E‘s release late last week had me drop everything in sight. O/E is the newest scent from Bogue Profumo, an Italian artisanal house that not only makes some of the most interesting, bold fragrances around but also the brand that put out MAAI. I chose the animalic chypre masterpiece as my #1 best new release of 2014 as well as my favorite scent on my personal list of fragrances (irrespective of debut date) that I’d tried that year. I even admired Bogue’s aromatic leather and lavender Cologne Reloaded despite being rather a lavender-phobe. Bogue is simply one of those houses that I find really intriguing and high quality, thanks to the talent of its founder and nose, the charming, intellectual Antonio Gardoni. So when Luckyscent announced it had received his newest creation, O/E, I was practically fell over myself to order a sample. The fragrance bears the Bogue DNA, but it is not what I had hoped for.
O/E is an eau de parfum that is a reworking and reinterpretation of Mr. Gardoni’s first fragrance, the now discontinued Eau d’E. I never tried it, so I can’t tell you if some people’s accounts of O/E as “reformulated Eau d’E” are accurate. Bogue’s website has no description for its latest release, nor any notes, so I can’t tell you that either. All I can share with you is Luckyscent’s note list which is:
Bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, neroli, clove, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, camphor, Lebanon cedar, juniper, pine, cypress, rose, jasmine, vetiver, benzoin, tobacco, resins, sandalwood.
O/E’s opening on my skin can essentially be summed up as follows: imagine a rosemary and thyme herb garden next to a vetiver patch at the base of a citrus orchard at Ricola’s house in Switzerland. Inside, someone macerates cooked lemons in sugar for Ricola’s candies, while another person scrubs the floors with a lemon-scented, ammoniac cleaning product from Mr. Clean. It’s all hard work, so the scrubber applies a mentholated muscle rub to relieve the pain, and its medicinal scent vies with the veritable tsunami of multi-faceted lemon aromas inside the house, as well as strong bursts of rosemary and a mineralized vetiver from the gardens outside. All around, in the background, is the smells of the mountains, dominated first and foremost by a very Alpine juniper. That, in a nutshell, is O/E’s main bouquet for much of the first hour. It’s Heidi meets Ricola and Mr. Clean.
Honestly, I can’t say that I’m thrilled. I like rosemary in fragrances, I enjoy candied lemon on occasion, as well as mineralized greenness and aromatic woods. Yet, something about this combination is very disconcerting to me, and that’s before we bring in the ammonia disinfectant smell which, sadly, grows quite profound by the end of the first hour. There is something about O/E that feels very familiar, but I can’t pinpoint precisely what scent it reminds me of. A commentator on Luckyscent compared O/E to the scent of an Aveda store, and some of that is true due to the strong rosemary-wood combination, but it’s not that simple, either. The intense citrus accords are too intense and out of whack, too filled with contrasts (candied sweet, sour, acidic, brisk, and cleaning disinfectant), and too powerful to make the overall bouquet merely a herbal-woody blend. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the fluctuating quantities of medicinal menthol that seems to surge and ebb like the tides over the rest of the notes.
Then again, some elements of O/E are nice. The perfume is extremely bright both in terms of visuals and feel with that positively sunny orb of lemoniness. I’m glad there is some sweetness to keep its crispness and briskness in check, particularly since I personally dislike citrus fragrances. As for Aveda’s olfactory signature, I’ve always found it to have an appealing aromatic quality, so that part is nice, too. Finally, I appreciate how Mr. Gardoni has taken a very traditional, classical construct — the crisp, citrusy eau de cologne — and given it a more modern character. O/E doesn’t feel dated or generically traditional, thanks to the “clean” vibe so beloved by modern fragrances, as well as a modern touch of fresh herbs and the quirkiness of menthol muscle rub.
There is something else which adds to the modernity, too. O/E has a hefty, solid dose of ISO E Super. It makes its appearance 20 minutes in, noticeable at first by the instant, sharp migraine that always befalls me when a fragrance has a very serious dose of the bloody aromachemical. Moments later, there is that general “woody buzz,” as Luca Turin once described one of its facets. The overall effect of the heavy ISO E Super with the citruses is to create the same sort of shimmering light and lightness that characterizes so many of Geza Schoen‘s fragrances for Ormonde Jayne. And, yet, O/E has more heft, body, and fullness than those scents, not to mention significantly more concentration than a true eau de cologne. So, all of that is nice too, except for the fact that I loathe hefty amounts of ISO E Supercrappy with a fiery passion. I also dislike citrus scents. And colognes. And smelling of mentholated muscle rub. And candied lemon. And I most definitely dislike smelling like Mr. Clean lemon ammonia.
The latter becomes quite a problem 30 minutes into O/E’s development. Actually, all parts of the lemon cocktail are difficult for me. The candied lemons grow stronger, and also takes on a distinctly honeyed aroma that is very animalic. Or perhaps the “animalic” impression stems from the Mr. Clean lemon accord which has suddenly turned into laundry freshness combined with pure cat pee. It reminds me of the smell when a male cat marks his territory. (Or when he gets angry at you for something and retaliates by peeing on your pillows, suitcase, and shoes….) The smell in O/E is somehow simultaneously very sharp, concentrated, retaliatory cat pee and so very, very clean. The odd combination is unpleasant by itself, but even worse when mixed with candied, cooked lemons, brisk lemons, the bitter oils from their rind, ISO E Super, garden herbs, and menthol muscle rub.
Meanwhile, other developments are occurring at the end of the 1st hour and the start of the 2nd. The rosemary overtakes and overwhelms the thyme; the juniper, pine, cedar, and vetiver meld together as one; and a hint of clove-dusted rose pops up in the background. In the base, there are the first stirrings of something dark, as the balsamic resins there awaken to provide the faintest, thinnest layer of leathery rawness, lightly tinged by a wisp of smokiness. It sets up an interesting contrast to the lightness, brightness, and cleanness of the top notes, and portends what is to come in a few hours. At the same time, there is a subtle muskiness that weaves in and out of the notes, all of which have turned much warmer in feel. Yet, everything is overshadowed by that blasted lemon cocktail with its increasingly sharp, thin, animalic, ammonia/pee honey. The smell of the latter seems lodged in my nostrils but, on the positive side, the ISO E Supercrappy has quietened down considerably.
By the time the 3rd hour rolls around, O/E is primarily centered on crisp lemons with fresh herbs, animalic honey, and chemical cleanness atop a dark, balsamic base. The woods are now a ghostly presence in the far background, popping up only occasionally, mostly in the form of either the cypress or the juniper. The herbs are hard to separate out. The lemon has warmth, but it no longer feels quite so candied. All vestige of floralcy has vanished. From afar, O/E smells mostly of bright, herb-laced lemons with honey and laundry detergent cleanness.
The first glimmer of relief (for me) arrives at the end of the 4th hour. The lemon retreats to the sidelines, thereby enabling all the other notes to come out from under its shadow and to be noticeable in their own right. Both the rosemary and thyme reemerge as distinct, individual elements. So do the juniper, pine, and vetiver, though they are still small pops in the background. At least they’re noticeable now, instead of some generalized medley of aromatic woods and greenness.
The most important change, though, is the arrival of a hazy, soft, brown warmth. It not only descends upon the fragrance like a plush, almost ambered, tobacco-y blanket, but it becomes O/E’s main focal point, enveloping everything in its path. It changes the vibe from a very bright, sunny, aromatic citrus cologne to something darker, cozier, softer, and more appealing. Alas, the ammonia honey and cleanness remain, encircling the scent like roaming guard dogs, but they’ve been muzzled (a bit) by that dark haze.
The latter is really interesting to me. It doesn’t smell of tobacco, nor of sandalwood, benzoin, or resins, but like a refined, smoothened and heavily filtered abstract mix of all of them. The accord is laced with dabs of vetiver, rosemary, and the honeyed lemon, but the predominant impression is of a thick, enveloping blanket of dark warmth. I think the sandalwood plays a significant role in creating a supple quality that almost (almost) verges on creaminess, but not quite. O/E is too dark for that now, but the sandalwood and benzoin together are definitely responsible for much of the soft, plush, almost pillowy quality to the darker notes.
For the most part, O/E smells primarily like a very smooth, heavily refined tobacco-resin fragrance infused with green herbaceousness, harsh honey, slightly industrial chemical cleanness, a light sprinkling of vetiver, and a streak of smokiness. From a distance, it’s really just that dark haze laced with animalic, sharp honey (and cat pee).
From the start of the 4th hour onwards, this is essentially O/E’s main bouquet and it remains largely unchanged until the fragrance’s final hours. Part of the difficulty in explaining the drydown is the fact that many of O/E’s secondary elements, their prominence, and their nuances are constantly fluctuating. I’ve tested the scent a few times, and the order or strength of some of the supporting players varies, particularly the vetiver, the juniper, and the rosemary, each of which seemed to wax and wane. In addition, the fragrance is better balanced and blended at this point, so there is no gaping inequity like that of the citrus bulldozer in the first 2 hours. As a result, a number of the similar elements (the herbs or the various woods, for example) merge together at times, and aren’t so clearly delineated in an individual fashion.
What I can tell you is that O/E turns thinner and gauzier after 6 hours. The notes are elusive, difficult to tease apart from the general brown haze of dark tobacco and resinous warmth. The animalic sharpness remains, but it is now only vaguely honeyed and does not smell overtly of ammonia. That said, O/E continues to have a pronounced cleanness that feels vaguely industrial in nature, while simultaneously bearing a soapy nuance now as well. The dark, clean, animalic, tobacco-y, resinous mix is wrapped up with thin strands of woodiness and greenness, then lightly sprinkled with tonka. The latter adds a subtle grainy texture to the scent. More importantly, though, the almost creamy (sandalwood?) plushness in the base has been replaced by tendrils of dirtiness that are simultaneously musty, musky, slightly skanky, earthy, and a wee bit dusty. They are juxtaposed right next to the chemical cleanness, creating an odd set of contrasts that I’m not particularly fond of.
In its final moments, O/E is a simple mix of dirty and clean tobacco with an undertone of woodiness in a warm cocoon. Using 3 smears roughly equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, it lasted 10.5 hours; using 4 smears roughly similar to about 3 small sprays, O/E lasted just under 11.25 hours. In general, the opening projection was good with about 4 inches of projection, but there was a strong scent trail that extended almost a foot. At the end of the first hour, the projection was 2 inches, then 1 inch with moderate sillage after 1.75 hours. O/E consistently turned into a skin scent on me after 6 hours, but was easy to smell up close without effort until the middle of the 8th hour.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I wasn’t keen on O/E, and a good portion of that has to do with my particular issues. For example, my dislike of lemon, eau de colognes, ISO E Super, ammonia, and the various other things I’ve outlined here. However, I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t bowled over by O/E. While the fragrance is too new for any blog reviews thus far, there are several descriptions for it already in a Basenotes thread. There, a few commentators had some of the same issues that I did with the scent, and several of them are big fans of Bogue. For one chap, the “HUGE” citrus note doesn’t seem to have been a positive. For another, the problem was that he preferred the balance of notes in the original Eau d’E. “Alfarom,” though, had the opposite opinion: “I think this is an improvement on the original. Thicker, denser but, most of all, there’s a lot more going on especially during the middle-phase / base.”
To my relief, I wasn’t alone in detecting an ammonia or cleaning product aroma. Two people did so, and neither one was thrilled. To wit, the following comments by “Colin Maillard” and “Drseid,” respectively:
- I haven’t tested this properly yet, but at a quick sniff, I don’t like it. First because it’s again just another variation on a chypre structure, and honestly I am starting to find this “style” more and more boring; second, because personally I can’t stand all that citrus. MAAI and Cologne were uncreative too in my opinion, but at least they smelled good. This one, well… not that much, not even that. To be really honest to me it smells basically like a masculine chypre drowned in heavy citrus (the “floor cleaner/mosquito repellent” kind of citrus notes).
- For me the reformulated O/E is disappointing. I think Alfarom’s descriptor of the differences above is quite accurate, but for me the changes are all for the worse. One key “composition killer” difference for me is the new version has an odd ammonia accord that runs through the early heart primarily, hanging around in diminished form well into the composition’s development. The original version was a tremendous classical Eau de Cologne style composition with a bit of a modern twist… This version tries to modernize the formula considerably, ultimately ruining the winning original formula that needed no tweaking. In short, the revised O/E ends up still good, but after being dazzled by the “good stuff”, this new version adds unwanted clutter to the original formula at double the price. Sometimes less is more.
For “Deadidol,” O/E felt like an eau de cologne on “steroids,” with a herbal quality that was reminiscent of O’Driu‘s older creations. His comments seem to be a mixed take on the scent, since he doesn’t actually like the eau de cologne genre, “candied verbena” or “culinary herbs.” His review reads:
I really wouldn’t call it a chypre, but the base is reminiscent of one. To me, it’s an EdC on steroids. I never liked the original that much because I don’t like the EdC genre or candied verbena or culinary herbs. It’s the fatal mistake that Miller Harris makes for me in that almost everything they do smells like it belongs in a kitchen. To me, this is the kind of scent that any Miller Harris fan would drool over as it takes that model and amplifies it. What I liked about the original version of this was the cypress note that rang loud and clear through everything else. That’s present in this, which is my favorite part of it. The citrus is HUGE, but it’s not like a sparkly clean kind of citrus — there’s a slight castoreum hold-over from the original that spins it down dirtier paths. To me this smells similar to older O’Driu scents only it’s more sticky and dense. I’m going to give it some dedicated wears this week and try and get some more cohesive thoughts together.
I’m a big admirer of Mr. Gardoni, and will continue to look forward eagerly to everything he does, but I’m afraid O/E is a pass for me. If you love masculine eau de colognes with a powerful citrus component, as well as herbs and woodiness, give O/E a try.