Samples Roundup: October 2018 (Stella McCartney, Clean, Jo Malone, Aesop, Le Labo, Osmia Organics, Ormonde Jayne)

Happy Halloween, everyone! I’ve got a treat for you today, but watch out for nasty tricks… This month I sampled a variety of scents and a couple toners, including some brands I’ve never featured on the blog. There’s also a sampler from an English perfumery that was kind enough to send me a preview of their upcoming release. Take a read to see what I thought of everything! For quick reference, WNR stands for Would Not Repurchase/Recommend and WR is Would Repurchase/Recommend.

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© Gil Segev 2018

  • Stella McCartney Stella Peony ($108*): I’ve never liked the Stella franchise, it’s too sharp to my nose. This has the same old Stella DNA, combined with a sour green note, like sauerkraut. Not my cup of tea at all. WNR
  • Clean Reserve Blonde Rose ($130*): Clean is one of the rare brands that’s preferred by consumers rather than reviewers. It’s very rare to come across a major (or even medium) blogger or vlogger that raves about their scents, and even less so with the newer “Reserve” range. I think the appeal to the masses is their softness, which is exactly what makes it unappealing to those of us with lusting noses. Blonde Rose is decent enough to I don’t hate it, though I don’t think it warrants the price they’re charging (that’s about the same as a 50 mL bottle of Dior, for comparison). To my nose it is equal parts sandalwood, soapy rose, and vetiver. Although not transparent like a Jo Malone (see below), it is impossible to say that Blonde Rose has any presence on the skin. It’s more of a linen spray that proper perfume, although I know that a good number of people would like to smell detergent-like. I just think that if you’re going to invest in niche, you should aim for something more adventurous than this. This is safe, which makes it distinctly out of the question for me. WNR
  • Clean Reserve Warm Cotton ($130*): Speaking of detergent, this is like opening a box of the stuff and sticking your sniffer in. Soapy, musky, vetiver and citrus. If you’re the type of person that wants to smell squeaky clean and nothing else will do, you’ll love this, although I believe you’ll want to check out their regular Warm Cotton first, which is less than half the price. WNR
  • Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay ($175*): I keep flip-flopping on Jo Malone’s brand. On the one hand, I love the creativity of their limited edition scents (I have Redcurrant and Cream from 2013 and Green Wheat & Meadowsweet from this winter in my collection). On the other hand, most of them just do not last on my skin. This is a common complaint about Jo Malone scents from fragrance enthusiasts, but it really hits home when you realize you’re paying premium prices for body mist quality. Blackberry & Bay is exactly as described, a green figgy smell with a hint of berry sweetness. It’s fairly generic, but pleasant for spring. This, however, was by far the worst performing Jo Malone I’ve tried to date. On my wrist, at home in my bed, it faded to nothing in about an hour. I barely had time to gather my thoughts before it disappeared. I can’t imagine the person who would appreciate this type of non-existent longevity, and for me the scent isn’t special enough that it warrants reapplication. WNR
  • Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner ($83*): This was my first foray into the Aesop line, but probably won’t be my last. They’re really known for their (expensive) body care, so I want to explore that a little in the future. This toner does a good job of preparing the skin to absorb serums and creams, softening, and balancing. It has lovely natural ingredients and a strong herbal lavender smell which I don’t love but also don’t mind. The price is a little eyebrow-raising, but to be fair it’s a larger 200mL bottle and this is a niche brand. I would consider purchasing this, but if you love the smell of lavender this will be a no-brainer. WR
  • Le Labo Another 13 ($205*): I have a hard time describing this scent, and the notes list looks more like a chemical equation than traditional marketing material. It has a sort of woodsy freshness that’s very masculine, and it lasts well despite having weak projection. It got a lot of compliments on my skin, even though I could barely smell it. I think this is probably a crowd pleaser, especially if the rest of the Le Labo brand is too much for your nose (like me). WR
  • Osmia Organics Active Gel Toner ($75.40*): This toner used to be called a serum before it was rebranded, but the formula stayed serum-like. It is a clear gel with a certain – how to put this nicely? – “barnyard” smell. The product sort of hardens on the skin to give a lifting sensation, but it’s all cosmetic, not skin-deep. It also didn’t help other products penetrate better, if anything it is a thick barrier that prevents such benefits. In short, there is nothing so extraordinary about this toner that makes it worth so much. WNR
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© Gil Segev 2018

  • Ormonde Jayne Rose Gold ($384-588*, received in PR for review consideration): Alright, let’s get the big elephant in the room out of the way; these fragrances are outrageously expensive. However, they’re not that far in price from the popular Creed or Roja Dove ranges, so I guess it’s all relative anyways. Rose Gold is a really lovely perfume in three acts. First, a literal interpretation of the precious metal that opens with a sweet rose mixed with a grassy, earthy vetiver-like note (vetiver not being a listed note). I can imagine the rose gold ore in the ground, dug out to reveal its brilliance. It has an air of raw beauty. Next, the ore is processed into a stunning piece of jewelry, maybe a glinting ring, represented by a sparking blend of citrus notes. The word joy springs to mind. Finally, the perfume settles into a happily-ever-after deep, dark and woodsy sandalwood. The perfume is incredibly smooth and pretty, riding the fine line between masculine and feminine. That said, its longevity and projection are hardly tenacious as advertised, even for a so-called ‘parfum.’ In fact, I would call performance downright poor on me. Like real rose gold it would be stunning to give for a special-occasion gift. WR
  • Ormonde Jayne Montabaco ($187-503*, received in PR for review consideration): A strange beast, to be sure. Inspired by Latin America, it balances traditionally masculine notes like leather and tobacco with florals. This type of new-age masculine scents reminds me of Kurkdjian’s Masculin Pluriel. They both balance the heavier, spicier notes with buoyant ones in a way that is approachable and modern. It’s an office or date scent for men that are tired of the all-or-nothing approach to wearing scent. It is both fresh and warm, like a well-designed overcoat in winter. Same as Rose Gold, I only wish that this fragrance performed better. I literally couldn’t smell myself at all with this one after a few hours, making for a difficult review. That said, Fragrantica reviews rave of performance, so I wonder if my skin just happens to drink this stuff up or if I become blind to it too quickly. At half the cost of Rose Gold it would also make an excellent gift and I could actually see myself picking this up for a work-appropriate choice. WR
  • Ormonde Jayne Cuir Imperial ($283*, received in PR for review consideration): This and the following fragrance are upcoming launches for this autumn, which gives me enormous hope as this absolutely rocked my world. Leather scents have the potential to be vile and old-smelling. Here, instead, they paired leather with sweet honey, booze, and spices. Smells like a gentlemen’s club from a spy novel, completely enveloping and intriguing. It stays linear all day and smells expensive. Best, this actually lasted on my skin and projected decently. I thought I smelled absolutely stunning all day. If you like leather but have a problem rocking it, try this out. I would love to add this to my collection. WR
  • Ormonde Jayne True Love (received in PR for review consideration): This is the new release I am less excited for, though it is similar to Cuir Imperial. It also has an intensely sweet honey vibe that merges with some dark fruits and florals, reminiscent of a rose jam. However, it lacks the longevity and strength of Cuir Imperial, and faded too quickly on my skin. WNR

     Overall I enjoyed testing out these scents and learning about a brand I haven’t heard much about before. I could see myself adding a couple of them to my collection in the future, and encourage you to check them out in person or through their site (links above). Have you tried any of these products? What have you been loving this season?


*Prices true at time of writing.


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