Aeon’s aeon 001 (2015)

Aeon's aeon 001 (2015) © Victor Wong
Aeon’s aeon 001 (2015) © Victor Wong

The idea of a perfume company launching its debut perfume in small quantity (in this case, 333 bottles) and also as a limited-edition scent is baffling to me. What if it’s a smash hit? Are they going to lose their cool and release another batch due to popular demand? I suppose they have something new up in their sleeve, otherwise, how do they sustain their business? And how do they expand their customer base for there are only so few people who can experience their perfumes?

On top of that, Aeon are also keeping the name of the perfumer anonymous. Frederic Malle goes against the tradition of keeping the perfumers’ name out of the picture and puts the perfumers under the spotlight, but now aeon is upping the ante and does the exact opposite. I am pretty sure they are not doing that just in case the perfumer sucks – they want it to be fun and controversial… as long as the perfumer is not someone who no one knows about.

(Spoiler Alert) So the perfumer of Aeon 001 is Antonio Gardoni, the same guy behind the famous chypre, Maai. At a perfume exhibition, he put the beautiful fused-lab-glass bottle on his booth table and said, “Well, everyone knows it’s mine, anyway.”

If you have smelled both Maai and Aeon 001, you could tell they share the same DNA – a signature heavy, oakmossy, resinous, musky, civet-loving animalic base. (Maybe that’s why a lot of people could guess he’s the perfumer behind it right away.) It’s easy to say Maai is a gigantic floral chypre and aeon 001 is a smoky vetiver-based perfume, but in terms of mood, if you say Maai smells like a perfume taken from the last century, then aeon 001 smells like it is taken from the last geological period.

When I wear Aeon 001, I feel like I am lost in a midnight forest surrounded by tall vegetation and I am holding burning torch, and things around me are smelling toasty. The animalic base makes me feel like there’s some beasts lurking around me behind the tall grasses. It smells raw, raunchy, unsettling, primitive and dangerous. If I may rename it, I would name it Jurassic Park. It simply is entertaining and thrilling. Aeon 001 is one of the most satisfying and “full” vetiver perfumes I have ever owned.

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Bogue’s Maai (Scent of Mystery Edition) 2015

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Bogue’s Maai (Scent of Mystery Edition) 2015 © Victor Wong

I had posted a photo of my “fragrance haul” in a Facebook perfume group, showing off my newly acquired scents from a trip, and a Facebook friend saw my bottle of Maai in the picture, and wrote the comment, “Maai is in the house!”

Yes, Maai is in the f**king house, finally. There’s a strange imagery came into my head, and it’s a Jenny Craig commercial; in it a once-overweight woman finally has shed all her extra pounds, and got accepted into the group of “normal” weight friends, full of joy and tears. I felt like I finally belonged, back to the mothership of sane people.

When Maai came out, it was almost like an unstoppable Internet forest fire in Fragrance County. Everyone was talking about it, and the fragrance friends whom I trusted by their taste in perfumes, all said Maai was amazing. I even got an unrequested sample sent to me from a friend as he couldn’t hold his love for this scent. I had talked to a person who had a shaving soap business suddenly asked if I liked Maai or not because he really loved it.

If I am asked to summarize my feeling for Maai, I would say this – it’s a fully restored, remastered, high definition vintage perfume. Everything that is typical in a vintage perfume, no matter it’s rose, oak moss, civet, or aldehyde, it’s so intense and rich and amped up, it’s like a Picasso cubist painting instead of a romanticism painting of angels. I think people are wondering if Antonio Gardoni has cheated and ignored IFRA safety guideline by pouring a gallon of real oakmoss in Maai with an evil grin (covered up by his beard) and mumbling in Italian, “fock you…”

That all being said, I didn’t love Maai. I liked it. Until I was at a fragrance show in LA, talking to a perfumer about her perfumes, and suddenly someone next to me sprayed some perfume onto a ceramic mask. I couldn’t hold myself, and said, “oh my god, what is this beautiful scent?” It was totally embarrassing because I was praising the scent coming from the next booth. Yes, it’s was Antonio next to me spraying Maai. BUT, not the regular Maai, but a modified version of Maai, called Scent of Mystery. He modified Maai by adding some beautiful gardenia, and amped up the concentration from 28% to 33%. It was so rich, floral, dirty, soapy and flirty it’s ridiculous. I succumbed, I had to get this special version. Now I think about it, maybe the original Maai wasn’t floral enough for me? How crazy.

Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari’s Cadavre Exquis (2016)

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I am writing this in response to a few people who have asked me if it is worth it to buy a bottle Cadavre Exquis. There are a lot of internal struggle, I know that: It comes in 50ml only and quite pricey, $245 a bottle. They have only made 99 bottles, a very small quantity, but a tricky quantity – if it is absolutely fantastic, only one or two people will post on Facebook telling everyone how good it is, but such annoying voice is going to be small and you will just eventually ignore it. If it is a limited edtion of 1000, hmm, you still have a chance to test it and buy it when your budget is looser and join the choir. Finally, it’s a gourmand scent, a love it or hate it genre, but men, they are designed by two revered indie perfumers, Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari, and you love to tell people you have finished your second bottle of Antonio’s Maai and Bruno’s Au Dela. Decision, decision, decision and time is running out…

Well, the opening smells like some old-style chewy non-fruity semi licorice (it’s actually anise) and caramel chocolate candies covered with some dubious wax to preserve them. It’s strong and rich, and not for kids, like Riesen Chewy Chocolate Caramel (Have you ever seen Riesen’s TV commercial? It’s caramel for grown men!) but more complex probably due to the camphor they have added and the mid-notes that can’t wait to show up. If you spit out licorice candies when you were a kid, but love to eat them now (especially some that also have a chocolate flavor), get Cadavre Exquis.

Since I know both Antonio and Bruno’s work, the opening of Cadavre Exquis, does not smell anything like their works, but because of its richness and matureness, I would say it smells slightly more “Antonio” to me, with a touch of the pop art feeling of Bruno’s work. If you absolutely hate gourmand, Cadavre Exquis has a resolution in the dry down. It continues to smell sweet, but it’s resinous, ambery, a little bit spicy and herbal (rosemary), and this candy has a small surprise for you – just a little civet castoreum poop in the chewy center that makes women scream in joy.

If Martha Stewart says, “Today I am going to fry an egg”, you know it’s going to be over the top, garnished with rainbow. Same as Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari telling you, “We are making a candy gourmand perfume!” Don’t worry, it’s spectacular, and if you really don’t like it, sell it on eBay for $450.

P.S. It is absolutely interesting to see both perfumers next to each other in the 2016 AIX Scent Fair. Bruno is more reserved and quiet, and Antonio is very talkative and has no secrets. Very memorable.

Adidas’ Originals by Jeremy Scott (2015)

Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott © Victor Wong
Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott © Victor Wong

Recently I was reminded by a friend that I liked “weird shit”. We were sniffing new perfumes at a department store and I showed him some of the newer perfumes that I liked, and he didn’t like any of them. “Nah, this smelled like an old man”, he said. His girlfriend said, “I bet there’s Indian oil in this perfume. Go check out Fragrantica.” I didn’t, because I was sure that no company would ever put “Indian oil” in their notes breakdown. Frankly, all I had shown them was a chypre perfume.

Actually that made me think… Do I prefer “weird shit” to “good stuff”? I only know the type of perfumes that my friend likes are designer and mainstream niche, and in my opinion, his “fragrance palate” is not very broad. (Hmm… Did I sound like a pompous asshole? In retrospect, my palate wasn’t very broad either, but I didn’t brush off challenging scents too easily.) I told him I liked “weird shit” last time we met because I was a bit tired and didn’t want to elaborate. (This also reminded me of my other friend Fifty-Fifty who absolutely hates Mac computers, and when he asked me why I loved Mac, I just told him it’s a “fashion statement”. He nodded his head in glee while spending a full day cursing and removing Windows Vista.)

In fact, the real reason why we met at the department store was that he wanted to sell me his “Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott” perfume. He bought it on an impulse, and he regretted it. I had never smelled it before we met, and really, no one needed to because, come on, look at that bottle – it’s a collector’s item, the perfume is just icing in the shoe.

He told me that he didn’t like the smell, which was expected, not because he liked only a small subset of “normal” masculine perfumes, but I expected it to smell subpar. But to my surprise, it smelled good – pepper, rose and incense, something you don’t find in a regular pair of sneakers or any regular $15 Adidas sports scents. While It doesn’t smell rich, resinous or oudy, it smells modern, sweet and fresh, and definitely “niche”. (It reminds me of Le Labo Baie Rose 26, too.) However, I can see soccer jocks finding this perfume too strange to match their masculine persona and their armpits not accepting a rose scented perfume.

While we were strolling through the department store, he mentioned that he liked Maurice Roucel’s work. Later I found out that Adidas perfume was co-designed by Maurice Roucel. Oh, the irony.

Diptyque’s Essences Insensées (2014)

Diptyque  Essences Insensees © Victor Wong
Diptyque Essences Insensees © Victor Wong

I have been doing some research on mimosa perfumes lately. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mimosa pour Moi and Annick Goutal’s Mimosa were two of the more popular perfumes that came up at the top of the Google search result page. Hmm, I wondered if I had a sample of Mimosa pour Moi from the many L’Artisan Parfumeur samples that I ordered two years ago? I dug around my drawer, yes, I did, only I had completely forgotten about it, as it wasn’t a very memorable scent to me. It actually smelled very nice but also very light; and the supporting notes such as vanilla and violet leaf receded to the background to let mimosa shine, as mimosa is a very soft and light honeyed smelling flower.

Then I came across Diptyque’s Essences Insensées in a department store. I used to think the French word insensées meant incense in English, but (somebody please help me here) Google Translate said it meant “foolish” or “excessive”? Foolish Essence? Excessive Essence? Well, the salesman told me that this limited edition perfume only used flowers that blossom during the December to March period. (To be honest, I don’t remember exactly which months.) Impressive, I guess? Well, to me the most important aspect of this perfume is that it’s a mimosa-centred perfume, and it smells very… strange.

Compared to the naive girl Mimosa pour Moi, Essences Insensées smells grown up and fallen, a middle age woman who has seen better days too early. Why is life so messy? What a soft clash of innocence and decadence. She can still see her beautiful mimosa former self in the mirror, but the smell of heavy beeswax, darker tone of violet, rose and pink pepper weigh her down. Sob a little bit in your bed while wearing your elegant Art Deco ball gown, don’t get up. Tomorrow will be better.

Shiseido’s Zen Secret Bloom Intense (2012)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I have seen some photos of Shiseido Zen Secret Bloom Intense (2012) circulating on the net for a while and know that the bottle is very beautiful, but it kind of blows my mind when I am holding it in my hands in real life. The original minimalistic square bottle is already pretty and “zen”-looking, but with this 140th anniversary limited edition, Shiseido have outdone themselves with some smart optical illusion motif incorporated into the bottle cap design.

Ironically, I bought it at a discount store for a bargain price of $30. It’s a blind-buy, and my first impression was: sweet floral (jasmine and freesia), a bit heavy and dark (probably from incense/patchouli), and really, a little bit intense (hence the name). Overall, a very nice perfume for I have no interest in light scents… but it reminded me of a perfume that I had smelled before but I didn’t not own, and I couldn’t recall which. A few hours of house chores later, I suddenly remembered – it’s Yves Saint Laurent’s Supreme Bouquet, which costs almost $300 a bottle. I liked Supreme Bouquet very much, and my coworker liked Majestic Rose a lot. (She almost didn’t want to leave the boutique like a lego character stuck to the ground.) To be fair, the floral notes in Supreme Bouquet are more refined and of higher quality, while Secret Bloom smells slightly shampoo-y. But I use Splenda instead of sugar, so definitely I have no problem with Secret Bloom being Supreme Bouquet’s more economically sensible substitute.

Le Labo’s Geranium 30 (2014)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Le Labo fan here. Just got Geranium 30. Like any other Le Labo perfumes that I have smelled, my initial reaction is almost always like this:

1) WTF. What is this!?
2) Calm down. This is expensive. They can’t possibly put out crap like this. I am so disappointed.
3) This is actually quite awesome. (If it is not awesome, go to step 1.)

Yes, I am like one of those people who own all Creed perfumes or Guerlain perfumes, except Le Labo is my thing.

I went to Fragrantica for a note breakdown cheat sheet and reviews, but the information was really lacking. I guess I am the only few who own this “only 100 bottles are made” limited edition perfume. (Really, I don’t believe you, Le Labo.) So, here’s my report of Geranium 30:

Like looking down from a helicopter over a stampede, I can see poor Mr. Geranium tripped and get stepped over by a marching band of lumberjacks carrying logs over their shoulders and waving hellos at me. As usual, I think Geranium 30 should be named something else, like Pine 30 or Beaten Up Flower 30. It’s unisex, quite fresh and sensual, not heavy, but I would not consider the opening “beautiful”, but puzzling and at the same time unique. As it quiets down, I am still not too sure what I am wearing, but overall I enjoy it.