Close Up by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2016

Notes: griotte cherry, spices, Brazilian Santos green coffee, centifolia rose, patchouli, white tobacco, amber, tonka bean, Atlas cedar, musk
How would a well-established business entity be perceived if it begged for money, instead of reinvesting with its own profits? Well, that's what Olfactive Studio unsuccessfully attempted, in mid-2016, by using (and abusing) a crowdfunding website, for the sake of a bottle redesign. As crowdfunding is usually associated with business start-up ventures and under-funded artists and music bands, the gall of this French niche house was absolutely appalling but one digresses.

Composed by Annick Menardo, Close Up is a sweet oriental that opens with an inviting blast of cherry, spices, coffee and rose, before almost immediately transforming into a derivative skin scent. With a mild undercurrent of tobacco, it rapidly evolves into a dull and creamy haze of resins, woods and musk.

With minimum sillage and average longevity, this house should be concentrating more on improving the general quality of its offerings, rather than trying to manipulate the general public into footing the bill for an unnecessary packaging revamp.


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Still Life in Rio by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2016

Notes: yuzu, lemon, mandarin, coconut water, rum, mint, black pepper, red pepper, Jamaican hot chili pepper, ginger, white leather accord, Brazilian copaiba balsam
Although flankers are normally associated with mass market designer releases, this very dubious niche house has decided to shamelessly release a flanker of Still Life.

Where Still Life is a designer sport clone, Still Life in Rio slightly improves on this olfactory concept but fails to push the envelope. Reviving the yuzu, rum and peppery aspects from Still Life, Still Life in Rio is creamier with a more prominent citrus leaning (plus a touch of mint in the opening). As for the peppery arsenal that it boasts, its influence is perplexingly minuscule.

Harbouring a creamy, balsamic and suede-like drydown, it largely remains quiet on the skin with below average persistence.


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Panorama by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: bergamot, lemon, wasabi, cardamom, fir balsam, galbanum, bamboo leaf, fig leaf, violet leaf, grass, patchouli, myrrh, labdanum, tonka bean, vanilla, musk
Like most offerings from this house, Panorama suffers from being top-loaded with an interesting array of notes to draw in the wearer, only to structurally fall apart several moments later. Such a deplorable tactic is normally employed by the designer houses but, seeing as one considers Olfactive Studio to be more of a pseudo niche house, this isn't at all surprising.

With a bracing citrus and galbanum introduction, a touch of cardamom is also detected. But this stage quickly fades, allowing a sedate leafy aspect to emerge. Any featured verdancy is never dark, earthy or true-to-life, but more genteel and affable with a resinous sweetness. As a creamy fig note surfaces, it soon becomes apparent that the composition is more of a clean grassy affair, which is a little damp and largely nondescript.

Resting on a musky oriental base, the final stage is sweeter with a spicy undertow. Once again, the drydown is a far cry from the deceptive opening and is strikingly banal. With the increasing dearth of modern green scents, any high-quality new releases are more than welcome. Unfortunately, Panorama isn't one of them.

Staying power is moderate but, as always with this house, sillage is far from impressive.


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Selfie by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: elemi, star anise, ginger, cinnamon, frankincense, angelica, lily, maple syrup, suede, styrax, labdanum, patchouli, tonka bean, cabreuva, oakmoss, sandalwood
So, a fragrance is named after a modern social phenomena that worships narcissism. Hmmm...

With the inclusion of cabreuva, best described as a warm and sweet woody-floral chord, Selfie is an incoherent chemical mess. With lashings of frankincense, spices and maple syrup, it tries to pass itself off as an olfactory reconstruction of immortelle. It also doesn't help that the quality of the ingredients are cheap and nasty. How this house can even be considered niche is beyond one's comprehension (and not for lack of trying).

Coming across as superficial, crude and hollow, it's an abomination that's best avoided... much like most forms of online social media.


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Ombre Indigo by Olfactive Studio

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: petitgrain, plum, saffron, tuberose, frankincense, papyrus, leather, amber, benzoin, vetiver, musk
When will some niche houses realise that colouring their liquids is a cheap and tacky gimmick? In the case of Olfactive Studio, this French niche house probably needs as much help as it can possibly get.

As with all its creations, there's a contrived, artificial and clinical aura about Ombre Indigo. There's no deftness or evidence of any masterful blending. Taking all this into account leaves one viewing this house as nothing but a shady business operation, where pretentious conceptual marketing and attractive packaging prevails – all for the sake of profiting from selling cheap-smelling mainstream swill at heavily inflated prices. After all, in this day and age, masquerading as a niche house has never been so lucrative...

Mainly compromised of synthetic grape (as opposed to plum), resins and woods, the composition is somewhat leathery with a spicy tuberose heart. However, apart from not smelling convincing enough, it's also structurally weak – resulting in a thin vetiver and musk drydown, alongside sweet traces of whatever aroma chemicals were lying around at the time of its ill-fated conception.

With minimal projection and poor longevity, this effort is lacking on so many levels. But, hey, at least the colour of the juice is alluring, right?


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Lankaran Forest by Maria Candida Gentile

*****
Year: 2016

Notes: petitgrain, bitter orange, fruits, ginger, Lankaran tea, leaves, white flowers, lichen, sandalwood, sacred woods accord
Lankaran Forest was first commissioned as a bespoke fragrance, for the 2nd Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts, in 2015. Inspired by the Lankaran Forest region of Azerbaijan, as well as the nearby citrus and tea plantations, it was originally presented both as an Eau de Toilette and parfum extrait, in exquisite Lalique bottles. Now, as an Eau de Parfum, this woody-aromatic has been added to Maria's standard line.

Contrary to the name, it doesn't even come close to being a woody-green extravaganza. Instead, one discerns a citrus sorbet zestiness, some smoky tea and ginger, and a mild woody undertow. With gentle fruity flourishes and a delicate white floral heart, there's also a saline nuance running throughout the composition. As it evolves, the accords become more interwoven, with the citrus eventually tailing off and a spicy woody-musk foundation steadily increasing its stature.

With moderate sillage and below average tenacity, although Lankaran Forest doesn't completely bowl one over, it's still Maria's most appealing creation since 2013's Noir Tropical. However, its performance on the skin tends to be a major issue and this is reflected in the rating.


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Rrose Sélavy by Maria Candida Gentile

*****
Year: 2016

Notes: rose leaf, rose stem, Michèle Meilland rose, Rose de Mai, Turkish rose, rose accord
Acting as a homage to the painter, sculptor and writer Marcel Duchamp, and his female alter ego Rrose Sélavy, this marks Maria's fourth rose creation (with Elephant & Roses, Cinabre and Sideris being the other three).

It's a vibrant, elegant and multi-faceted rose outing, which encompasses herbaceous and verdant components, especially a notable spearmint accent. As for the floral aspect itself, it's vermilion in tone, wine-like, velvety and slightly candied without being too jammy. When compared to Cinabre and Sideris, Rrose Sélavy is much more sparse and translucent – focusing solely on the different olfactory properties of roses, without any unnecessary clutter or distractions.

As the composition evolves, it becomes softer, a little sweeter and slightly spicy. By this point, the herbaceous element still persists, but has now softened and intermingled more with the rest of the accords. With moderate projection and below average longevity, the drydown becomes muskier and a tad creamy. And even towards the end, one can still identify a bittersweet greenness, from the rose stems, lurking in the background.

In relation to Maria's more recent works, it's definitely one of the better ones. However, one still found it slightly synthetic and not as potent as her earlier releases. Over recent years, one has become more concerned about Maria's stylistic shift but, unfortunately, it seems to be a permanent one. Alas, as much as Rrose Sélavy could be viewed as a respectable rose soliflore, it's nowhere near as exuberant or satisfying as Sideris.

And like Andy Tauer, one feels that Maria should set aside her rose fixation and concentrate more on exploring new olfactory themes.


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Elephant & Roses by Maria Candida Gentile

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: thyme, costus, osmanthus, Turkish rose, jasmine, Javanese vetiver, sandalwood, ambergris, animalic accord
Elephant & Roses is supposedly an animalic rose creation, but one has been left greatly underwhelmed.

Starting out with the mint-tinged astringency of thyme, the costus adds a body hair accent to the opening. The herbaceous introduction is both striking and unorthodox, but the osmanthus' honeyed floral properties gradually smooths out the rough edges. The emerging rose is sweet, delicate and slightly spicy, but never really comes to the forefront. And as the jasmine adds a floral creaminess, green subtleties continue to prevail.

Residing on a soft woody-musk foundation, the vetiver is suggestively yeasty, while the sandalwood exudes its typically mild and buttery woodiness. However, with regards to the animalic aspect, it's far too subdued with a wallflower demeanour. By the drydown, what's left are warm, powdery and slightly creamy woody-floral traces, with just the tiniest whiffs of smoky vetiver and something faecal.

Although it's not as animalic as originally anticipated, its performance on the skin is surprisingly poor. It's thin, with minimal sillage and longevity of approximately four hours. For an Eau de Parfum, one expected something more robust and not something that closely resembles an Eau de Cologne.

Ultimately, this is one Maria Candida Gentile fragrance that one can easily live without.


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Syconium by Maria Candida Gentile

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: fig, milk, honey, Javanese sandalwood

Comment: Syconium is part of the Flight of the Bumblebee Collection
syconium (noun): "A fleshy hollow receptacle that develops into a multiple fruit, as in the fig."

Supposedly an olfactory study of the maturation of a fig tree, Syconium is a woody-gourmand that hardly bears any resemblance to a bona fide fruity fig affair.

Of course, a hint of fig is vaguely evident but the composition is more about the sandalwood. With the milk and fig accentuating the creamy properties of the sandalwood, a chalky texture is discernible alongside a reserved nuttiness. At this stage, the composite aroma is highly reminiscent of L'Artisan's Bois Farine. However, by the time it reaches the drydown, the aroma is closer to that of Yves Saint Laurent's Body Kouros. As a result, one is unable to see the appeal of owning Syconium when there are cheaper alternatives available.

With understated sillage and moderate tenacity, it's a competent creation but also a very tough sell.


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Kitrea by Maria Candida Gentile

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: bergamot, winter lemon, fruits, honey, ambergris

Comment: Kitrea is part of the Flight of the Bumblebee Collection
Located north-east of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, Kitrea (or Kythrea) represents a "union between citrus and the sea".

Sadly, Kitrea is practically an unnecessary sequel to the previous year's Finisterre, but with Kitrea's honey and fruits substituting Finisterre's woodier attributes. As expected, it's fresh, salty, aromatic and slightly green, with the winter lemon exuding its lemon-orange hybrid properties. There are also floral and spicy facets throughout, and any sweetness is firmly kept in check.

While it's a pleasant effort, one tends to look unfavourably on niche houses that produce more than one calone-inspired offering (especially within such a short space of time). With under twenty fragrances released to date, one expected Maria not to have been so complacent.

Both longevity and projection are about average.


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