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Critics Take on the FiFi Finalists: Part 2

Posted: April 29, 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 Nouveau Niche category nominees. (Not all fragrances are listed in Perfumes: The Guide)

Women's Nouveau Niche: (12 finalists due to ties)

  • Agent Provocateur Maitresse (Selective Beauty): 2 stars "After an excitingly weird rancid-glue (or seriously dirty drawers) top note, it eases into a replay of some big, friendly, cheap woody-jasmine thing my mother wore in the eighties and whose name escapes me. I can almost hear the Dynasty theme song." (TS)
  • Armani Privé Rose Alexandrie (Giorgio Armani Beauty)
  • Bond No. 9 New York Andy Warhol Silver Factory (unisex) (Bond No. 9 New York): 3 stars "Bond's late foray into the spicy incense territory populated early on by Comme des Garcons and other niche firms has resulted in a perfectly friendly if unadventurous incense, with an interesting accord of iris and waxy smoke, like Dzongkha without the genius. As it goes on, it starts to approximate the drydown of Bond's cedar-amber West Broadway, no bad thing in itself." (TS)
  • Bond No. 9 New York Bryant Park (Bond No. 9 New York): 3 stars "If memory serves me right, there was a peculiar effect in L'Artisan's Voleur de Roses in which the combination of rose and patchouli conjured up a hallucinated strawberry. Bryant Park builds on this effect with a thinner rose and more berries to make up for it. The end result is curiously tentative, given the flashy promise of the Pucci-inspired pink bottle, but not bad." (TS)
  • Bond No. 9 New York Saks Fifth Avenue for Her (Bond No. 9 New York): 3 stars "Essentially a remake of the wonderfully peachy-bright tuberose of Fracas and Carolina Herrera, but with a ton of the smoky, blown-out-candle smell of the peach lactone material, which usually vanishes in composition. Mistake or not, I rather like it." (TS)
  • Burberry Brit Sheer (P&G Prestige Products, Inc.)
  • Gucci by Gucci (P&G Prestige Products, Inc.): 3 stars "Gucci, following the departure of Tom Ford, shows alarming signs of reverting to guido style, i.e., the Miami pimp-and-moll look of the bad old days: the bottle of Gucci looks pure eighties and even has a gold-plated miniature belt buckle hanging from it, more Guccione than Gucci. The fragrance, composed by the talented Antoine Maisondieu, is one of a breed of well-crafted, drop-dead-pretty but instantly forgettable woody orientals begat by Narciso Rodriguez for Her, a sort of olfactory Carmen Electra. The basic formula is a swirling cloud of woody, woody-amber, and spicy notes, and Gucci adds a fresh fruity top note and an interesting but short-lived white-floral magnolia accord. The whole thing runs out of cash at about t = 60 minutes and thereafter feels like the morning after." (LT)
  • Iris Pallida (L’Artisan Parfumeur)
  • L’Eau de Jatamansi (L’Artisan Parfumeur)
  • Prada Infusion D’Iris (Puig Beauty & Fashion Group): 2 stars "The good news: this is, by comparison with other Prada fragrances, a well-mannered composition. The bad news: it contains no discernible natural iris note, and feels rather like a gray, nondescript woody masculine." (LT)
  • Versace (EuroItaly)
  • Visa de Robert Piguet (Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, Ltd.): 4 stars "I was lucky enough to smell a bit of the original Visa when a friend of mine bought a bottle on eBay from a seller who had inherited the intact inventory of a perfume shop closed for decades. Composed by the idiosyncratic Germaine Cellier in 1945, the first Visa was an intense, sweet animalic chypre, powdery with amber and civet and a dose of herbs: in other words, pretty much Tabu (1932, by Jean Carles). That kind of thing has gone seriously out of style, so when young perfumer Aurelien Guichard was called upon to reorchestrate it for modern fragrance lovers, they kept nothing but the name and started from scratch. The new Visa, which could never be mistaken for a classic fragrance, has more in common with Guichard's Chinatown for Bond No. 9 than it does with its old namesake. It is essentially a fruity chypre, a sugared peach played dry, in an austere leather-and-wood style reminiscent of Serge Luten's recent apricot-suede Chene, and given a lovely strangeness in the drydown by the burnt-sugar-and-curry note of immortelle. It's the Piguet reorchestration least respectful of the original, but ignoring that, there's no denying it's good. Like a flashlight seen through your hands, it turns out that a straightforward fruity floral glows more brightly when given something to shine through." (TS)

Men's Nouveau Niche:

  • Armani Privé Vetiver Babylone (Giorgio Armani Beauty)
  • Bond No. 9 New York Andy Warhol Silver Factory (unisex) (Bond No. 9 New York): 3 stars "Bond's late foray into the spicy incense territory populated early on by Comme des Garcons and other niche firms has resulted in a perfectly friendly if unadventurous incense, with an interesting accord of iris and waxy smoke, like Dzongkha without the genius. As it goes on, it starts to approximate the drydown of Bond's cedar-amber West Broadway, no bad thing in itself." (TS)
  • Bond No. 9 New York Saks Fifth Avenue for Him (Bond No. 9 New York): 1 star "I'm not a fan of the curiously large number of Bond masculines that seem to follow this overdone, bare modern theme: a powerful woody amber, a citrus, a screechy synthetic lavender. Given that the brand has produced Great Jones and New Haarlem, they're clearly capable of doing better for the guys." (TS)
  • Courvoisier L’Edition Imperiale (Kraft International Marketing, Inc.)
  • Cravache Robert Piguet (Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, Ltd.): 2 stars "To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: 'I knew Cravache. Cravache was a friend of mine. This is no Cravache.' The original, of which I own a couple of liters, was once brilliantly replicated before my eyes in fifteen minutes by Laurent Bruyere by mixing a leather base with some bergamot and a couple of other things he neglected to tell me about. The original Cravache was the most cheerful of leathers and the least hygienic of citrus fragrances. Unaccountably, given that it was worth reviving and required no special skills, the keepers of the Piguet name have chosen to create an entirely new fragrance, a pleasant dry citrus with no trace of leather. Nice but not in the league of, say, Eau de Guerlain and somewhat pointless." (LT)
  • Givenchy Classic Fragrances (Parfums Givenchy)
  • Kiton Black Eau de Toilette Spray (Aramis & Designer Fragrances): 3 stars "Kiton's second masculine fragrance takes the usual violet-leaf woody accord we've seen a million times and tweaks the terrifically strange top note with a few tricks borrowed from the structure of Missoni: a hissy, sharp white floral and a dry, screechy, chocolate-like woody jangling at the outer edges, with a sweet violet middle section holding it together. It works until the woody amber takes over, as woody ambers always seem to do." (TS)
  • L’Oeuvre Noire by Kilian (By Kilian)
  • Tom Ford for Men (Tom Ford Beauty): 3 stars "The good news is the fragrance smells nice. The bad news is that it's a straight-up rehash of the excellent Baldessarini. Get the original." (LT)
  • West Indian Lime (Crabtree & Evelyn)