Review: Jacques Fath Green Water — 4.0 points

Eau de cologne is a family of fragrances which are very widespread and well-known so much so that we know this summer staple by heart. From cool citrus and herbs to warm woody, ambery note — you know how it unfolds and what to expect. Its seems that nothing more could be done to improve upon this universally beloved harmony.

But when that happens, it offers a pleasant surprise. Such is the case with Green Water (2015), which was re-launched along with the revival of Jacques Fath brand. Reportedly, perfumer Cécile Zarokian set about bringing back the spirit of Green Water by frequently visiting the perfume archive Osmothèque to smell the original 1946 formula of perfumer Vincent Roubert. As she could not bring back a sample for analysis, she worked closely with perfumer and founder of Osmothèque, Jean Kerléo, who also happened to be privy to the formula. Whether the result is close to the original, I cannot say simply because I have not smelled the original. But, I can surely say that the re-launched composition makes me re-think the possibilities eaux de cologne have to offer.

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That Green Water is an eau de cologne is no doubt, but it is in the special accent and restraint that set this eau de cologne apart from its brethren. The first spritz is of fresh citrus and neroli, and these hesperidic notes are accompanied by a lot of sweet mint and its coolness. This gives Green Water a unique refreshing effect. Next is a subdued orange blossom that lends a subtle but persistent floral touch. And, typical of classical eaux de cologne, a sprinkle of herbs and spices, such as basil, tarragon, and a cuminic note, imparts an agrestic accent. Everything is rendered with such softness and balance it feels elegant.

The cool citrus and herbs are classically paired with the warm rough-hewn notes. A grapefruit-like vetiver note reciprocates the citrusy idea of Green Water and remains until the dry down. It is complimented by mossy and ambery notes that gives a nostalgic vibe of an old-school eau de cologne.

All of this elegant transformation happens subtly and close to skin. That being said, the only complaint I have against Green Water is its extremely fleeting and quiet nature. I have at most an hour of wear before the show is over. But while it lasts, I revel in its layered complexity and subtleties, from the refined citrus, mint, neroli, and herbs to the warm mossy vetiver. I imagine old-fashioned glamour rendered with a soft touch. Now, a copious splash from the 200-millilitre flacon might just be the volume one needs.




Review: Diptyque Tam Dao — 4.0 points

Sometimes a beautiful composition is simple. It might not have a thousand layers to unfold, but its signature  character and quality more than make up for those. Tam Dao (Diptyque, 2003), the eau de toilette, by perfumer Daniel Molière is a case in point. It is focused. It is about dry, sensual woods – and a precious one at that.


Indeed, the terpenic opening is kept to a minimal without much fanfare. Cypress gives the impression of an aromatic resin and woods with a leafy touch. From then on, it is sandalwood galore with as much as 17% of sandalwood oil. Its milky note embraces and calms, yet cedarwood imparts a distinct woody texture. A quirky description I could give is ‘a creamy pencil’.

The monolithic sandalwood character of Tam Dao can be dense and opaque, but the subtle ambery shades and woody dryness of 7.5% Texas cedarwood oil render it tangible and wearable. In fact, once Tam Dao reaches its musky dry down, it wears like a creamy second skin.

That said, those who prefer a trail in their perfumer will likely be disappointed by the intimate nature of Tam Dao. It is the kind of perfume that asks one to lean in and experience. Tam Dao lasts well, but its quiet character means that I often forget about it only to wonder later what that cosy creamy scent is.

Tam Dao is simply all about the beauty of sandalwood.

Source:, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Christian Dior Bois d’Argent — 4.5 points

Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) is not only a great perfume in terms of quality, but also a salient example of how its shades of iris are played to open the material to a unisex effect. We would later see a ground-breaking success a year later of the ‘masculine iris’ in Dior Home (2005) which truly demonstrates the potential of iris. For this reason, this excellent Bois d’Argent by perfumer Annick Ménardo is ahead of its time.


At the heart of the composition is a combination of musks and 0.8% orris butter. Accents of vanilla lend its sweetness, and completes the powdery musky iris theme. In contrast, the woody shades of iris are expanded by patchouli and a noble whiff of frankincense oil at 1.1%. Thus, the character is powdery deep down, but with an interesting woody incense subtext.

The woody tone is kept warm and salty like driftwoods. Here, the unprecedented amount of Ambrox at 13.6% plays a major role with its crisp ambery note. It also gives an interesting warm sillage and a lift to the musky iris theme of Bois d’Argent.

Often, when I have already forgotten that I put on Bois d’Argent, I would still catch its warm, powdery, faintly sweet, and woody semolina hours later. It recalls somewhat the late dry down of Chanel N°19 Poudré, but is inflected with a warm woody accent.

Interestingly, Bois d’Argent explores the warm woody shades of iris whilst remaining easily accessible to both men and women’s shelves. At the centre is iris. The woody aspects are played up by ambergris, patchouli, and frankincense, meanwhile the soft powdery element is expanded by vanilla and musks. My favourite part is in the interesting pairing of the warm ambergris note and the musky flour of iris. It gives not only a beautiful contrast, but also a signature warmth. It is a brilliant composition.

Sources:, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Christian Dior Sauvage — 1.5 points

Fragrances that set out to sell and appeal to their targets with trendy notes may smell similar. Their perfumers might have little say on how they should smell because such fragrances, more often than not, follow strict marketing directives. But these perfumes are not necessarily without merits, either.

First, having undergone market tests and with consumers’ thoughts in mind, these perfumes are at least wearable and pleasing to many. Moreover, although they are focused on the trendy elements, they can still have some of their personalities. One can look at perfumes that embrace the masculine trend of ambery-woody and aromatic fougères to find some good examples. Bleu de Chanel (2010), for instance, may already contain such notes, but it also incorporates durable ozonic freshness and warm nutmeg to convey the association with fresh and spicy aftershaves. It strength lies in such effective embellishments. 1 Million (Paco Rabanne, 2008), on the other hand, challenges the classical fougère; it opts for the novel freshness of mint and mandarin, the opulence of rose absolute, and the sweet spiciness of cinnamon bark, instead of bergamot, geranium, clove, and nutmeg.  The flamboyant defiance of 1 Million has even spawned a new masculine trend. These perfumes have proved that, despite riding on the same bandwagon of popular elements, they can still be creative.

Similarly, the aromatic woody-ambery fougère does not make Sauvage (Dior, 2015) by perfumer François Demachy any less worthy of purchase. If anything, they make for a wearable and familiar genre. But its problem lies in the lack of personality.


From the top, Sauvage follows the prescription. Its freshness comes from a lot of sour bergamot and the sharp, citrusy, lavender-like dihydromyrcenol. It becomes a tad aromatic. Sauvage smells very generic, but I am prepared to forgive the top in hope of finding some interesting accords that would follow. Yet, the distinct marine Calone 1951 soon discourages me. Worse still, the advertised ‘Sichuan pepper’ note is so feeble that to describe it as ‘spicy’ would be an exaggeration. And, there is a kind of sharp freshness that penetrates also through to the fond.

As I tried hard to find something in Sauvage that might appeal to me, I caught a faint suggestion of violet leaf and leather and, for a moment, thought of Fahrenheit (Dior, 1988). But I am afraid that beyond this fleeting suggestion, there is nothing that remotely suggests a signature for Sauvage.

The warmth of ambergris note based on Ambroxan® and a large dose Iso E Super contribute to the remaining part. In contrast to the peppery brightness, it presents just about the only redeeming quality. Then, the disappointment goes deep in the musk fond that smells rather soapy. I find it rather inadmissible considering the price tag.

Sauvage is essentially a likeable contrast between citrusy freshness and ambery-woody warmth. However, it is generic to the point of banality. It simply takes after the style of Bleu de Chanel, but substitutes a simplistic, profit-driven idea for quality and effective ornamentation. Whilst Bleu de Chanel boasts the full-bodied citrus, fresh nutmeg, and an ambery warmth on a fine musk base, Sauvage opts for an acidic bergamot, disinfectant-style freshness, a vague leathery violet leaf, and Ambroxan®-Iso E Super mix on a rather contemptible musk base. The mishmash is boring and borderline agressive. It is also unrelenting and will not disappoint in terms of longevity.

It simply is characterless.

Source:, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odours

Review: Bleu de Chanel (EdT) — 3.0 points

A sniff and one can tell that Bleu de Chanel is not so concerned about originality and memorable character. What matters is that it simply needs to sell and the fragrance division ought to play safe with the demographic to which it is marketed. The result is thus something well-liked by the mass, and such a creation tends to get lost in the crowded shelf. It is difficult to recall its scent amidst the sea of other similar beings.


But, once you have picked out the full-bodied citrus and the transparent ambery-woody warmth in Bleu de Chanel, it is not entirely impossible. The composition may not stand out at all, but the promise of quality makes it decent. Its balanced composition and quality materials might even rank it above many of its brethren.

The framework of Bleu de Chanel is a contrast between citrusy freshness and ambery-woody warmth. A juicy citrus with hints of fresh lavender-recalling dihydromyrcenol creates the freshness. The woody centre takes to nutmeg, dry woods, and warm ambery notes. The contrast is there, but it does not create much of an impact because such a theme has been done countless of times. Nor can the fresh marine accents and fine musky quality towards the end impart any signature.

Yes, it is unoriginal, and I find it hard to be impressed. But it is not a ‘bad’ composition. After all, it strikes a balance between bright freshness and warm sensuality. And, its ingredients smell plenty of quality: round and clear citrus, spicy nutmeg, warm crisp ambery note, and subtle musks. Hence, even if Bleu de Chanel does not break new grounds, its balance and quality result in a nice smell, decent sillage, and longevity.

A side note on the name: The current Bleu de Chanel (2010) bears no relation to the vintage perfumes from the Le 1940 de Chanel collection that includes Bleu de Chanel, Beige de Chanel, and Rouge de Chanel.

Sources:, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors,