I’m introducing a new feature or section to the site focusing, as the title suggests, on The Average, The Banal, The Bad & The Ugly. The name is a play on Sergio Leone’s famous film, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,” but none of the fragrances covered here rise to the level of truly “good.” Not by my standards, or in my opinion. A handful of the fragrances may, at best, be deemed “Average” or decent, but they’re a small handful and, in some cases, the classification may be relative to the abysmal character of others in the line, to the price, or something else.
Whether it’s Roja Dove, LM Parfums, MFK, or a smaller brand, they’re all capable of putting out something that is simply not worth extensive discussion, so I’m going to do things very differently in this section as compared to my regular reviews. There won’t be note lists, official descriptions, links to Fragrantica, discussion of other people’s experiences as a comparison, photos of every bottle, a long list of retail links, or anything else. I’m going to take a page out of what Luca Turin and so many other people do, and simply give my opinion in the most general, synthesized fashion possible. In some cases, it may only be a single sentence. In others, I’ll lump five or six fragrances into one passing observation about their overall character. In both cases, it will probably be because they were scrubbers or bored me into a state of total apathy.
I realise this approach won’t be helpful to you in terms of specifics, but I’m afraid I have little choice. I receive so many fragrances each week that I have a backlog of more than 140 samples at this point, and I’m starting to feel quite overwhelmed. Plus, I’m unwilling to write 20 or 30 negative reviews in a row, particularly not in my usual detail. It would be a turn-off for you, the reader, but it would also be a bore for both of us if I were to repeat the same issues or problems again and again, post after post.
More importantly, it would kill any interest I have left in writing about perfume. And that interest has already been significantly — and very negatively — affected by the sheer number of truly mediocre to dire creations released in the last 12 to 18 months. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either; a good number of my friends and other bloggers as well feel that the distinctiveness or quality of recent releases has declined, perhaps because so many brands are simply churning out more and more fragrances per year.
Whatever the particular reason, I smell so many things each week that either leave me feeling wholly apathetic or that I scrub off with horror that it’s become a really big dilemma for me. It’s exhausting to write thousands of words about something one hates, but I dread it just as much for things that are merely average or banal. But if I were to only write about things I loved passionately, I would probably only post 5 or 6 times a year. So my choice is either to stay silent, to let it impact me to the point where I give up blogging entirely, or to do this, even if that means that there won’t be the sort of detailed explanation that you may have come to expect from me, or any substantive explanation at all.
So, with that explanation of things to come, let’s get to today’s fragrances.
BERDOUES GRAND CRU OUD TRIO:
Oud Wa Ward: It starts as a goopy, fruitchouli-slathered, fruity-floral rose with oud, saffron, and some sharp woody synthetic and eventually turns into a slightly animalic, cheesy oud with synthetic woods and sharp white musk. The cheesy oud in its later stages is decent but, taken as a whole, the fragrance is unimaginative, boring, and redundant. I can’t see the need in this world for yet another fruitchouli rose-oud that is equal to or just barely a step up from a Montale.
Oud Wa Misk: A soft, honeyed, sweet, lemony rose with oud and musk that is much cleaner, fresher, and crisper than its brother, Wa Ward. Better at first than Wa Ward, but perhaps even more banal in the long run when it turns into a generic, vaguely oud-ish, woody scent with extremely sharp, laundry clean, white musk.
Oud Wa Vanilla: Screechy, candied, sugared vanilla with screechy, goopy, gloppy fruitchouli and a rather Westernized “oud,” all engulfed by a screechy, laundry clean white musk. A total scrubber that I couldn’t bear to keep on my skin. Like the others, it also feels totally generic, perhaps even more so. You can find this sort of thing in any cheap Arab shop for significantly less than the $140 retail price asked here.
ROJA DOVE UN AMORE ETERNO:
Clean, soft iris/orris that is accompanied in the opening minutes by a sharp, dry, antiseptically clean, chemical woody note which smells like an ISO E-based synthetic. That fades from sight and visibility, replaced by a powdery, sweet, meringue-ish heliotrope, a thin dusting of Guerlainade-style tonka vanilla, and a clean musk. Over time, a pinch of abstract spiciness joins the mix, along with an indeterminate dark sweetness. Un Amore Eterno is supposed to be a cocoa-dusted iris scent but, on my skin, there was no actual chocolate in any of the three times I tried it, not even when I poured a good part of the vial on my arm. At its core, it’s always nothing more than a powdery, slightly sweetened, Guerlain-style, iris-driven Floral Woody Musk. The sillage and projection are extremely low, and this is surprisingly soft, quiet, and discreet for Roja Dove, although the longevity is excellent.
It feels flat, lifeless, and utterly bland. In my notes, I repeatedly used the word “flaccid” to describe some of its parts and the overall composition. The cumulative effect for me is not only a characterless scent, but one that is completely unmemorable. Such a sad, little, flaccid thing. I couldn’t imagine spending a few hundreds on it, let alone $525 or £375 price for a mere 50 ml. That’s an astonishing figure, if you ask me. For any other brand, Un Amore Eterno would be an average to decent scent; for Roja Parfums, it’s arguably mediocre; but for $525, it’s an eye-roller.
GROSSMITH SAFFRON ROSE:
Lemony, honeyed, sweet roses dusted with fiery saffron and screechingly synthetic, Westernized oud. Rose-ouds are a dime a dozen, and this one lacks even the quality of oud to make it stand out. $455 or £295 a bottle? Ridiculous.
Scandinavian Crime: Norlimbanol up the gazoo. A blistering amount of Norlimbanol is infused with some nose-searing, spicy woody chemical, then splattered with some fruity, pink pepper goop, before being dunked in a vat of some woody-amber aromachemical. Scandinavian Crime was originally released as a Russian exclusive called Unique Russia, but there is nothing “unique” about the scent, not for Russia, Scandinavia or any other part of the world. In my opinion, nothing here separates Scandinavian Crime from a plethora of existing woody-spicy fragrances by Menditorrosa, Nasomatto, Orto Parisi, Montale, or several other brands.
Even if one puts aside the rather astonishing quantity of aggressively strong synthetics, it feels like a “crime” for a house such as LM Parfums to put out such a boring, uninteresting perfume given the sorts of things they use to create. I used to love this brand, and eagerly looked forward to every new release. Now, I simply dread it. I can’t believe this is the same house that made Hard Leather, Sensual Orchid, Army of Lovers, or the interesting, rather original twist on patchouli with Patchouli Boheme. My reviews have gotten more and more negative over the last two years, they’ve stopped sending me the perfumes as a result (which is, quite frankly, a huge relief), and my reaction each time I try one of the latest ones can essentially be summed up by the photo to the right.
Aldeheyx: As compared to Scandinavian Crime, this is almost… er… okay? Well, no, not really, because this sort of ultra-clean aldehydic bouquet was already perfected by LM Parfums in its significantly better, chic-er, polished, and rather appealing Chemise Blanche. I’m hardly one who loves aldehydic fragrances, but that one is extremely well done. It’s a soft, barely floral, ineffably polished minimalistic cleanness that evokes the image and feel of a crisp, white shirt. In contrast, Aldeheyx has a soapy, sterile, razor-sharp chemical cleanness that is exactly the scent of my dry-cleaner’s shop. To a “T.” The German Shepherd in me continues to grimace.
SANTI BURGAS PERFUMES & THE WHITE COLLECTION:
Santi Burgas is a Spanish niche brand that has been around since 2008 or 2009, and I tried all six of the fragrances in its White Collection. I thought Miss Betty Vair, Oikb, and Egnaro were uninteresting, mundane, and unoriginal things with a loudly synthetic character. They were so forgettable that I couldn’t recall anything about them within a day or so of testing, and I have a rather decent olfactory memory.
Flaming Red: My feelings about Flaming Red can be summed up by the photo to the left. It makes LM Parfums’ Scandinavian Crime look like the height of natural perfumery, and takes the super chemicals to a whole new level. It completely shut down my nose. For an entire day. Before I got to that point, the notes seemed to be some sort of mix of the lethally powerful Cedramber with Trisamber, Norlimbanol, and, I think, Amber Xtreme. At least, that was my initial impression and a rough guess because I was left utterly reeling from a mere 15 minutes of Flaming Red which seared the inside of my nose, prevented me from being able to smell anything properly for a full 24 hours, and made me physically ill. I tried to test it on a scent strip later, but that was just as bad. (Plus, the strip fumigated the corridor in which it was placed, radiating 5-alarm forest fire smoke, rubber, tar, “oud,” and spiced amber-woody chemicals for more than 20 feet, giving me a piercing migraine even when standing at a distance.)
Bottom line: If the police ever run out of tear gas, I suggest they use Flaming Red instead.
Oud de Burgas: This one isn’t dire, and actually has very good, authentic, properly Middle Eastern Sufiya agarwood, although it won’t be for everyone. It opens with runny, fermented blue cheese oud and animalic barnyard aromas, complete with the scent of steaming, hot cow patties. There is a quiet smokiness that eventually turns intensive, as well as some sharply rubbered, tarry, smoky woody-amber chemicals. The overall result is not a smooth, elegant, refined, or filtered oud blend, but an in-your-face, raw, butch, animalic oud with equally rough leather, smoke, and woods. But there is a place and audience for ouds like this, and it’s not bad. I may be unimpressed by the quality of the materials accompanying the oud, and might think that the blend as a whole is merely average, but at least the key note makes Oud de Burgas stand out and feel distinctive as compared to the many faux-ouds out there. So, if you’re a hardcore oud fanatic, this one is probably worth your testing.
Eau Dada: The only other one worth a sniff, in my opinion, is Eau Dada. This was actually my favourite of the lot at first, thanks to wave after wave of labdanum amber and spicy patchouli, laced with streaks of boozy vanilla. It’s an incredibly basic, simple, linear blend, but wonderfully rich, dark, spicy, and chewy at first. The problem is that sharp, abrasively raspy woody aromachemicals are tossed in as well, first wafting quietly but then turning quite screechy. They impact the smoothness and richness of the main patchouli-labdabum blend, turning it sharp, rough, and overly dry. By the time the drydown rolls around, they’ve very much taken over. The result isn’t for me, but Eau Dada is still the best of the lot, in my opinion, and worth a try if you love patchouli, labdanum amber, or both.
As a side note, Santi Burgas perfumes cost $170 or €145 for 100 ml bottle of EDP, except for its Oud de Burgas which is $340 or €295. Santi Burgas sells individual or complete set samples on its website, and ships worldwide. The fragrances are also sold at MinNY and Essenza Nobile.
MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN (MFK) BACCARAT ROUGE 540:
I’ve smelt a lot of things in the last year that have made me recoil from their sweetness, but, God in heaven, this may be the most extreme. Even worse, it feels and reminds me of things like La Vie est Belle, Flowerbomb, Alien, Pink Sugar, and any number of tooth-aching, candy-floss, indeterminately floral commercial fragrances that you can find for $24.99 in TJ Maxx and which are dominated by a tsunami of pure white sugar, burnt caramelized vanilla, generically “ambered” syrup, and razor-sharp laundry musk. If I had blindly smelt an unmarked bottle, not once, never, not in a million years, would I have thought it came from Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I wouldn’t have thought it was a niche perfume at all. Baccarat Rouge 540 was one of the fragrances where the mere thought of writing one of my usual, detailed, proper reviews made me want to avoid blogging entirely. Each time I smell it, I shudder even more. I think it’s godawful.
ERIC BUTERBAUGH FLORALS:
Eric Buterbaugh is the celebrity florist to the stars, from Madonna to Demi Moore and Princess Special Alien Snowflake, Gwhiney Paltrow. Given his uber-florist status, I’d expected his seven fragrances to involve rich, deep, hefty florals. Instead, I found them to be impressionistic abstractions and astonishingly synthetic in feel. My two favourite flowers in the entire world, tuberose and hyacinth, were rendered bloodless, then turned even more shapeless and amorphous with a welter of clean musk. The hyacinth was particularly and painfully indeterminate. The rose fragrance was the best of the lot, I suppose, at least relatively speaking, because it had the most clearly delineated notes and identity. Even so, I thought the entire collection was the olfactory equivalent of tofu.
Disclosure: I purchased my samples of Roja Dove’s Un Amore Eterno, Grossmith’s Saffron Rose, and MFK’s Baccarat Rouge. Samples of all the other fragrances discussed here were provided by the respective perfume companies, their agents, or their distributors, with the exception of the LM Parfums samples which were provided by Luckyscent. As always, where I obtain my samples makes no difference to my review or my assessment. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.