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Photos: Driely S. for Racked
Photos: Driely S. for Racked

This Season's New Perfumes, Reviewed by Real People

Confounded by poetic press releases on the subject of scent, we decided to poll some of our officemates here at Vox Media on a handful of this season's new smells.

"A captivating story of contrasts, a paradox, a daring concoction." That's Yves Saint Laurent Beauté explaining the collector edition of its Paris Rebel scent, "a woody vibration," of the original, "illustrated by the unique mix of rose absolute with tomato leaves." What in the world does that smell like?!


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Confounded by poetic press releases on the subject of scent, we decided to poll some of our officemates here at Vox Media on a handful of this season's new smells. Some of these people are used to reviewing things like phones for The Verge or restaurants for Eater, while others write about New York City real estate for Curbed or handle market research, but none of them are experts in the field of fragrance.

Here's how it worked: Each person smelled these fragrances solo and without seeing the brand, scent name—or anything else that could influence their opinion—and free associated fragrance notes ("I get vanilla and canned fruit"), who they could imagine wearing this scent ("I can picture someone working at Free People wearing it"), and anything it reminded them of ("Is this just Old Spice?").

Jimmy Choo 'MAN'

$82 for 3.3 oz

The brand says: Fresh, woody. Opens with "crisp vivacity complemented with calming lavender notes." Mandarin, honeydew melon, geranium, pineapple leaf, patchouli.
Our testers say:

Sonia, Eater cities editor: "This is very crisp and business person-y. You'd have to be really confident to wear it because it has those citrusy notes that can sometimes be more feminine. As you smell it more the citrus wears off and it becomes more woodsy. I'd buy this for a guy who was stuck on Gio, to develop him."

Ryan, Eater chief critic: "I would spray this perfume on a banker to make him realize masculinity has many dimensions, not just two dimensions: light beer and baseball. This is the modern era of men. This is a man not defined by masculinity but by this love, perhaps, for nature and the natural world."

Arielle, The Verge science reporter: "It's boring. Your male dental hygienist wears this. Has fairly good taste, good shoes, but there's nothing remarkable about it."

Dan, The Verge senior editor: "The guy that wears this is maybe in his early 40s. He makes an alright amount of money. He works with numbers. He likes to rock permanent stubble. So even though it smells like aftershave he's got this permanent stubble going on."

Chavie, Racked features reporter: "This man has sexy, bushy eyebrows and a five o'clock shadow and—preferably—bright blue eyes. He has a deep voice. He builds coffee tables and models at night."

Jeremiah, Curbed New York editor: "This smells like Axe. Club promoter. Chin beard. I don't want to discriminate against anyone, but I wouldn't like this guy."

Arta, Vox Media market research: "This guy has a fancy watch and a sport coat on, probably Johnny Walker on the rocks. He's super into himself. He smells good, but I don't know if I would talk to him."

Jimmy Choo 'STARS'

$98 for 3.3 oz
The brand says: "Rock-chic," opening with green pear and candied orange. Tiger orchid delivers "a carnal sensuality, while an unforgettable scent of toffee chypre leaves an addictive and intoxicating trail."
Our testers say:

Sam, The Verge social media manager: "This smells like a clean bathroom at someone's really nice house. It's rich kid bathroom smell."

Jessica Hoffman, Vox Media director of sales marketing & development: "Mellow, oddly unpleasant. Like a flower that doesn't smell great."

Rill, Vox Studios media manager: "I think this is awful. Bubblegum, candy, fruit—cloyingly sweet."

Sonia: "It's kind of quiet, clean, crisp. Your white wine of perfumes."

Arielle: "This is someone who tries hard to be feminine. This says, 'I don't really know who I am yet.'"

Ryan: "Do not like this one. It's too sweet—cloying. I get vanilla and canned fruit. It's the equivalent of cake flavored vodka, or vodka flavored with anything that doesn't belong in vodka."

Dan: "Bubblicious. This is someone who's younger, someone who actually wants to smell like Bubblicious. You should probably ID them."

Yves Saint Laurent 'Paris Rebel'

$105 for 2.5 oz
The brand says: "Floral, fresh, citrus and fruity." There are "original notes of tomato," as well as bergamot, raspberry, rose, and the open ended "musks."
Our testers say:

Sam: "The color pink is everywhere in my head right now."

Arta: "This smells like something I wore in high school—floral, young, fun. I can picture a 16 year old girl wearing this. Her parents bought it for her in duty free."

Chavie: "This is a good date perfume, because it's sweet and enticing. It's first base—you're worrying about which lipstick you're wearing, but not necessarily your bra."

Sonia: "If this were a cocktail I'd want to drink it. Fruity but not too sweet. Infused gin, beet, and orange."

Ryan: "This is very soft. It's like a down comforter, you can fall into it. There's no edge. I'm getting notes of bubblegum, powder, and a touch of rose. My grandmother's purse, in a good way."

Jeremiah: "Getting strong 'mom's hand lotion' from this one."

Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt

$60 for 1 oz
The brand says: Ambrette seeds, sea salt, and sage. "Lively, spirited, and totally joyful."
Our testers say:

Dan: "You could wear every day, not smell like a skank. You wouldn't offend people, and still smell nice."

Jeremiah: "It's citrusy. A fancy store comes to mind. One that sells fancy knick knacks, or vases with sticks."

Ryan: "It reminds me of a blend of citrus and fresh talcum powder. It reminds me of spring. It evokes growth, energy. For sporting a dress—a proper spring dress, not a mini skirt—maybe striped or polka dotted."

Sonia: "It smells like a vodka tonic, kinda citrusy. Super beach-y. It reminds me of a bar we'd go to in college called Flip Flops. There was sand on the floor and frozen drinks."

Balmain 'Extatic'

$115 for 3 oz
The brand says: "An oriental floral featuring crystalline rose, nashi pear, night jasmine, cashmere, and leather," leaving an "explosive exhalations in its wake, expressing the success—and excess—of the Balmain woman." Well then.
Our testers say:

Jeremiah: "This really smells like a candle. Like Christmas. Like a green Christmas candle, sweet baking spices, a little woody. This one smells classy to me, like an old lady in a fur coat and big sunglasses. I've never been to a ski resort, but I'd hope the lobby would smell like this."

Sam: "It's cold outside and this is a lady with a long coat 'cause she's fancy."

Chavie: "Musky. Spicy. This girl shops at Reformation. She smells great on the subway and people are nuzzling up next to her."

Sonia: "I could wear this every day. It's not too floral or citrusy or heavy. At first it was more spiced and now it's getting more flowery, but not, like, little girl flowery. It's blossoming into itself."

Dan: "This one smells like funeral flowers. Not romantic flowers. This person is in their 50s, comfortable in their living situation. They might like to wear fur."

Ryan: "Interesting. Hint of powder and fresh mowed grass. This is a girl who walks by you in the pastry store and you turn your head just for a second, and then it's gone. It's not my favorite scent, but I'm intrigued. It's soft, smooth, sweet, middle of the road—it's not going to alienate. This is something to wear to work, not quite an evening out."

Arielle: "It smells like a toy. Plastic, fake, hypersexualized."

NOVA for Loup Charmant 'Sultan'

$160 for 30 ml
The brand says: "A sultry composition of oriental and wood scents." Talcum, clove, vanilla bourbon, sandlwood, oud.
Our testers say:

Ryan: "I would never ever advise anyone to wear this ever under any circumstance. This smells like someone's breath if they had whiskey at five in the morning and tea at six in the morning. This is a working alcoholic. She has her shit together, but an alcoholic none the less. You don't want to party with her, she's seen her better days."

Jeremiah: "That smells like plastic is burning, in a nice way. This is way different than the other ones. Like a hookah bar."

Jessica: "This smells like food to me. Burnt food. In a cabin. It's smokey."

Rill: "This is awesome. It smells like leather, cigarette smoke, dark spices, Indian spices, cardamom, high intensity—like being in a street fair. It's unique, I've never smelled a perfume like this before."

Chavie: "This is my favorite. It's like a European backpacking trip: adventurous, sophisticated, cultured. It's a really good pair of flat leather boots."

Arta: "No. It smells like sticking your face in a barrel of whiskey. Or being upstate. I wouldn't get in the car with anyone wearing this."

Arielle: "This is smoky, it has character. It's a strong woman—super sexy. Angelina Jolie would smell like this."

Arquiste for J.Crew '57'

$78 for 1.75 oz
The brand says: "A woodsy blend of cedarwood, aged whiskey, and cinnamon."
Our testers say:

Arielle: "This smells like a cocktail. A cocktail I want to drink. It has mezcal and lemon, but it's sweet. A girl who really knows her cocktails but is still super feminine."

Sonia: "It smells like India, kind of. I go every year. India smells like a lot of things. Kinda spicy, kinda dusty—that's not a good perfume word, but it's not in a bad way. The cocktail word is 'aged.'"

Rill: "Older, familiar, like Grandpa. Lemony but dark. Leathery."

Jessica: "Vanilla, but unique. A confident, southern girl."

Jeremiah: "This smells like a bar I've been to. A little citrus peel scent. Vanilla emerging."

Arquiste for J.Crew '31'

$78 for 1.75 oz
The brand says: Damson plum, Bulgarian rose, and patchouli, "designed to evoke an avant-garde crowd."
Our testers say:

Rill: "This smells like incense, it has a hippie tinge. A little like beer, but snobby craft beer. Sophisticated grunge."

Jeremiah: "Like a garage, but fancy."

Arta: "I can picture someone working at Free People wearing it. Very boho. Smells good in an effortless way."

Sam: "This is fucking cinnamon, all over this thing. This person definitely isn't blonde. Probably a red head, maybe brunette."

Arielle: "Bubbly but poised. Early 20s, but has an office job."

Jessica: "It reminds me of a cocktail. A fancy drink in a dark bar that you're drinking slowly—not to get drunk—on a date."

Sonia: "I like how this smells. It's really light, more fruity than floral, kinda summery. I would wear it in February when I was depressed about how gross and gloomy everything is, to feel better on the subway. And maybe make other people on the subway feel better, too."

Ryan: "Green olives. A hint too much sweetness, but really intriguing. This is a foodie perfume: vegetable, olive-y notes, a hint of astringency. Good second date perfume. Maybe you held hands, maybe a quick kiss; you don't know which way the evening is going to go. Those olive notes are starting to even out. I like that a lot."

Tracy Reese Eau de Parfum

$68 for 100 ml
The brand says:Bergamot, anjou pear, green tea, amber, and sandalwood. "Romance and freshness."
Out testers say:

Ryan: "Very piney, a little lime zest—very green. A young, confident woman from late 20s to early 40s. More of a statement perfume: straightforward, what you see is what you get. No mysteries to be unveiled that evening. A man could get away with wearing this scent."

Jeremiah: "This reminds me of men's deodorant, but the kind I would wear when I was first wearing deodorant. Ones with names like "sport" or "fresh" or "glacial freeze."

Chavie: "This is the perfect perfume to put on after a workout. There's something bouncy about it."

Sonia: "It smells a lot like what I would have liked when I was 12 years old. It's very floral and feminine. It smells good, but I would be afraid that people would be like, 'she's too old to smell so flowery.'"

Ralph Lauren Polo 'Red'

$63 for 2.5 oz
The brand says:
"Speed. Adrenaline. Seduction." Grapefruit, saffron, wood, and coffee, to "ignite the three-seeker in every man."
Our testers say:

Jeremiah: "Is this just Old Spice? This smells like something a 12 year old who doesn't shower would spray all over themselves before they go to school like a masking scent."

Arta: "Bro. Such a bro. Just graduated college, got a job at one of the Big Four. Trying to buy me a fireball shot. I'll probably take it, smile, and walk away."

Chavie: "Everyone on Wall Street is probably wearing this, especially the interns."

Dan: "Young guys would wear this to the club. They probably won't have success with the ladies, 'cause every guy is wearing Polo to the club."

Arielle: "Nothing about this is sexy. "

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