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Critics Take on the FiFi Finalists

Posted: April 14, 2008

Luca Turin, a leading scholar in the field of olfactory science and author of The Secret of Scent, along with Tania Sanchez, perfume reviewer and collector, have just released their latest book—Perfumes: The Guide. In this entertaining and opinionated book, Sanchez and Turin combine their talents and experience to review nearly 1500 fragrances, separating the divine and the good from the monumentally awful. In each review, either Turin or Sanchez offer a vivid description of the scent along with a 1 to 5 star rating (1 = awful; 2 = disappointing; 3 = adequate; 4 = recommended; 5 = masterpiece).

As the annual FiFi Awards fast approaches, P&Fnow checks out what these experts have to say about this year's nominees. (Not all fragrances are listed in Perfumes: The Guide)

Women's Luxe: (11 finalists due to a tie)

  • Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche (Chanel): 1 star, "What's known as pushing ones chance. Depressingly banal. LT"
  • Coach (BeautyBank)
  • Daisy Marc Jacobs (Coty Prestige): 3 stars, "I'm sorry this pleasant, competent fruity floral (berries and white florals) isn't more interesting, because grabbing the white rubber Takashi Murakami daises on the cap fills me with joy. TS"
  • DKNY Delicious Night Eau de Parfum (Donna Karan Cosmetics): 3 stars, "What a beautiful idea! This is a fruity chypre in the style of Cartier's So Pretty, with a striking, deep-purple smell of blackberries and woody iris that exactly matches the inky color of the bottle. Sadly, it smells as if they didn't have the budget to do the idea properly—cheap, loud woody ambers and a thin synthetic floral section fail to fill out the structure—and I can only hope that they do it again, next time with feeling. TS"
  • Dolce & Gabbana the one (P&G Prestige Products, Inc.): 3 stars, "Probably the only wearable fragrance in the D&G range today, a modern floral oriental done with a very light touch, like a scaled-down Narciso Rodriguez for Her with fresh lily-of-the-valley notes in the heart. LT"
  • Emporio Armani Diamonds (Giorgio Armani Parfums): 1 star, "When I was four and had a fever, I was prescribed a fruit-flavored liquid antibiotic, of which I had to swallow several tablespoons at a time. It took four adults to restrain me and force it into my mouth while I screamed. It tasted a lot like this. TS"
  • Kelly Calèche (Hermès): 3 stars, "With Kelly Calèche, you get two perfumes in one. The bad news is neither is great, and they don't talk to each other. On fabric or a blotter, the complex top notes immediately inform you that the first of these perfumes is one of Jean-Claude Elléna's vegetable-patch accords, first seen in 2003 in Jardin en Méditerranée: tomato stems, grass, warm hay, clean earth. But Jardin possessed hybrid vigor, to pursue the horticultural metaphor, and its disparate components helped each other, whereas here they do not. The second perfume, which takes over very rapidly on skin, is basically Dior Homme, a warm, balsamic iris accord that worked a treat in the context of the youthful, virile directness of DH, but makes little sense in a classy feminine. Overall, this is one Elléna creation where overrefinement and ornamentation predominate over structure and purpose. Disappointing. LT"
  • M by Mariah Carey (Elizabeth Arden)
  • Nina by Nina Ricci (Puig Beauty & Fashion Group): 4 stars, "May be another meretricious fruity scent for teenage girls who want to smell like candy, but it's hard to resist this delicious lime-vanilla top note, with its psychedelic pastel swirl of rainbow sherbet. (LT wagers that it replicates the fruit punch that started this whole trend: Escada's long-defunct but unforgettable Chiffon Sorbet from 1993.) The friendly, lactonic, sugary drydown is a little ditzy but far from disgusting, a real achievement in this mostly careless genre. TS"
  • Ralph Rocks by Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Fragrances): 3 stars, "Like a Tiki theme party in a bottle, this terrifically brash, trashy orange blossom and woody-coconut concoction is worthy of a Malibu rum and Coke half-price special all night. I wish that part lasted longer than 10 minutes, but even the relatively mild milky-sandalwood drydown has a louche appeal. TS"
  • Usher She (Liz Claiborne Cosmetics)

Men's Luxe: (12 finalists due to ties)

  • Attitude by Giorgio Armani (Giorgio Armani Parfums): 3 stars, "This is one of those fragrances that work not because the structure is particularly interesting or the materials exotic or luxurious, but because the balance between known quantities in play has been adjusted until the composition feels just so—if this were recorded in music, it would be more a producer's than a composer's achievement. Attitude at first has a generic, early-twenty-first-century guy feel about it, until you realize that the lemon, coffee, cardamom, and patchouli seem to get on with one another unusually well, and appear disposed to spread a little happiness. I'd prefer to smell this on a woman, but I guess a guy or a smelling strip will do. LT"
  • Burberry Summer for Men (P&G Prestige Products, Inc.)
  • Calvin Klein MAN (Coty Prestige)
  • Chrome Legend by Azzaro (Clarins Fragrance Group): 3 stars, "Masculine florals are back? The last time this happened nobody bought them and a fair few people lost their jobs. This one is a fresh, aldehydic woody-jasminy affair, not bad except that it begs a question: If you're going to do that, why not go large and wear Pleasures? LT"
  • Diesel Fuel for Life Men (L’Oréal Designer Fragrances): 4 stars, "The name sounds like a lottery for guys trying to ignore Prius ads, and the bottle, wrapped in a zippered, stitched distressed-canvas bag, conjures up third-world labor making frivolous objects for the idle rich. After all that, the fragrance comes as a pleasant surprise; it is none other than a brilliantly inventive variation on the purest, most classical fougère theme as seen in Brut and Canoe, enlivened with a sweet-woody-amber accord that somehow overlaps perfectly with the original structure without masking it. Nice work. LT"
  • Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme (P&G Prestige Products, Inc.): 1 star, "Probably the worst masculine in production today, a combination of, it seems, only two armor-piercing notes that happen to be the most unpleasant in perfumery, marine and woody amber: plague and cholera at once. LT"
  • Fleur du Male Jean Paul Gaultier (Beauté Prestige International): 3 stars, "This cheerful, clean powdery masculine smells of Irish Spring soap, baby bum, and shaving cream, a scent so evocative of bathroom rituals, you can nearly see the white tile and the steamed mirror. It feels like parody, but it sort of works. As with the original Le Male, the nude-male-torso bottle seems intended to limit its use to solely the very gay or the imperturbably straight. TS"
  • “For Him” Narciso Rodriguez (Beauté Prestige International): 3 stars, "Another variation on the watery violet-leaf theme, but with all friendliness removed. A dry, screechy, metallic top note seems carefully crafted to discourage approach, after which a small, cautious sweetness sneaks in. It's a well-made fragrance for mean, forgettable people. TS"
  • Guess Suede (Parlux Fragrances, Inc.)
  • Polo Explorer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Fragrances): 3 stars, "I have an endless supply of gray skirts, black T-shirts, blue jeans, taupe eyeshadows, and red lipsticks because they're so standard they inspire a sort of 'oh, I need one of those' mindlessness in shops. Middle-of-the-road masculines like Explorer are designed on the black T-shirt principle: they hope you won't remember you have five just like it. TS"
  • Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts Him (Gemini Cosmetics)
  • Usher He – Liz Claiborne Cosmetics

Stay tuned to the April 30 edition of P&Fnow to see what Turin and Sanchez have to say out the FiFi Nouveau Niche finalists.