When Tom Ford Gets Extreme

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Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I have not gone off Tom Ford. Despite recent dabblings in Byredo and this Valentine wish (which is still in effect), my heart belongs to Mr. Ford. I’m simply not a fan of absolutely everything the man produces, which includes the recent Noir Extreme. I did not at all like the original ‘Noir’ he put out, so an Extreme version of that has the expected effect. It’s nothing against Ford, it’s more against the Noir.

Of course, in time tastes change, so I won’t say that one day I won’t be completely enamored of Noir, but that day has not yet arrived. Until it does, I’ll satisfy my Ford cravings with any one of his Private Blends, with the exception of ‘Noir De Noir.’ See, it really is a noir thing.

A perfect example of the evolution of cologne likes and dislikes is my relationship with ‘Grey Vetiver.’ When I first tried that I was decidedly unimpressed. Again, it was due mostly to a dislike of vetiver over any fault of Ford’s. Yet as the years progressed, I came around to the Grey, and it’s about to become a winter staple of my fragrance garden. There’s a lesson here. Never say never, and always give yourself the option of changing your mind. One more thing: Tom Ford is rarely wrong. The rest of us just take a little longer to get there.

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Hunk of the Day: Richard E. Grant

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When a Renaissance man is able to surprise and delight with a twist you never saw coming, there’s a certain thrill I get that jolts my heart in the most joyously unexpected way imaginable. Such was the case when I discovered, rather long after the fact, that Actor/Director Richard E. Grant had produced a fragrance last year. Usually I’m quite on top of such matters (I tend to ferret out when Tom Ford is coming out with a new Private Blend before Mr. Ford himself is aware). In the case of Mr. Grant, his ‘Jack‘ perfume was a lovely surprise that revealed another layer of a complex gentleman. For that reason alone, I had to write up this Hunk of the Day honor.

Additionally, however, it’s in service to his many years of stealing the show, whatever that show may be. The sinister way he snarled through ‘Gosford Park’ paved the way for every villain on ‘Downton Abbey’ – a show into which he’s injected new life this season, as is his wont. Yet for all of his amazing acting work (and 2005′s directorial accomplishment ‘Wah-Wah’) I may be most excited about his fragrance venture. Mr. Grant shares a passion for scent, and his cologne cocktail, with an opening of citrus, hints of marijuana, a dash of vetiver, and a few select spices, sounds like a heavenly masterpiece designed to delight the olfactory senses. (Yes, I’m rooting around for a sample, and hoping desperately they ship overseas.) In the meantime, I offer this Hunk of the Day crowning to Mr. Grant, the quintessential British gentleman who likely smells as good as he looks.

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Recap the Day Away

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The last week of January has begun! I was quite over this winter before it even began, and I’m not going to say anything about it just yet as we’re still not quite over the hump. Let’s just take a quick look-back over our shoulders to survey what damages came before – and some of these damages are hot hot hot!

Take for example the Hunk of the Day. These guys kept things scorching in the face of sub-zero weather and snow storms. Four-name wonder Francisco Javier Gómez Noya started things off on the right foot, whizzing through triathlons like nobody’s business.

Hot on his heels was Cam Newton, who kept things thrilling by his winning smile (and a body to-die-for.)

Not one to let the fit and hairless have all the fun, Brian Maier brought hirsute hotness to the proceedings.

Taking a break from the hunkdom, we paused for a moment of love, or at least love of fragrance.

Sometimes something smells so good that I have to have it right then and there. Mandarino di Amalfi was one of those times, but this week it was Black Saffron.

It turned out that hunks weren’t the only thing that could keep things hot, as evidenced by this steaming bowl of Tom Yum soup.

A onesie kept my package warm in Boston.

These guys certainly helped.

Barrett Pall is in a class all his own, and is a prime example of when the Hunk of the Day becomes so much more than just a hunk.

Music makes the people come together. It also makes the winter more bearable.

Family does that too.

Once upon a time, I was a Trickster. (And at my best moments, I still am.)

Finally, the most important invitation of the year was posted. I’m opening up this platform (isn’t it pretty?) to you. Yes, YOU. The reader, the viewer, the up-to-now-silent partner in all things to do with this website. On certain Sundays I’ll be hosting a “Special Guest Blogger” with someone else helming the post of the day. The best part is that all content and submissions will be up to you. (For those who like a few guidelines, you are welcome to stick with the tried and true themes you see here on a regular basis – all things gay, beautiful, fabulous, fun, deep, moving, disturbing, decadent, depraved, sexy, seductive, scented, tumultuous, sweet, upsetting, depressing, wonderful, melodious, deleterious, witty, courageous, touching, calm, and daring – oh, and if you want to throw in your take on Tom Ford, Madonna, David Beckham or Ben Cohen, be my guest.) In other words, sky’s the limit. Oh, close friends, ex-boyfriends, and former-crushes are especially encouraged to apply, as they may give the other side to all the stories I’ve spun over the years. (I may end up regretting this, but it will be well worth watching.) Hit me up at alanilagan1[@]gmail.com if you have something to say.

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Palin for Prez!

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Sarah Palin, the person who quit midway through her governorship, is hinting that she may run for President. Personally, and all politics aside, I hope with all my heart that she does throw her hat into the GOP nomination ring. There is no greater spokesperson for the Republican Party. Go Sarah!

“The man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it! Then the man can’t ride ya!” – Sarah Palin

To be fair, I’ve always found this to be true.

[See also "Bat-shit crazy."]

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Further Trickery

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“Through synchronistic coincidences the Trickster can sometimes confront us with what we do not know about ourselves but must recognize if we are to know the whole of our own reality… As a creature without boundaries, his existence and activity are never absolutely fixed in place. He makes connections across the limits we ordinarily set for life, bringing together polar opposites and disclosing that which is hidden.

The Trickster puts life in our path in spite of our denials. We continue to stumble over his gifts, ignoring their disturbing nature when our luck is good, cursing some vague fate when our luck is bad.”

~ Allan Combs & Mark Holland

He is the mythic embodiment of the unexpected. He symbolizes the unexpected eruption into awareness of truths hidden away from the ego. In a psychological sense, the Trickster is one mode by which other archetypes, such as the archetype of the self, assert themselves.

This appearance of the Trickster is characteristic of his style: he pops up unexpectedly. The quality that he brings to synchronicity, however, is not simply that of surprise. his manner has the impish charm of cunning and magic. There is a flavor of roguish enchantment to the situations he orchestrates. ~ Allan Combs & Mark Holland

One has the feeling that in synchronicity the Trickster engages in the fabulous play of a divine jester; he is a “juggler of reality.” It is in the notion of play, we believe, that we may find the key to understanding our best relationship to the Trickster and thus to synchronicity. It is also the key to discovering his divinity in ourselves.

As a messenger and herald he represents the interests of a considerable range of unconscious or mythic figures. The most roguish play of the Trickster, however, is in the role of the prankster. In these the Trickster acts on behalf of an unconscious structure known as the shadow. ~ Allan Combs & Marl Holland

 The Trickster’s play frequently gives us opportunities, usually unwelcome, for personal growth by flaunting our most private secrets for the whole world to see. This seems to be the Trickster’s delight.

Thus, the play of the Trickster makes us confront our own faults in the everyday world, much as we are forced to confront them in our dreams. These instances offer the opportunity to recognize our faults and, by owning them, to take away their sting and in the bargain render ourselves more whole.

This is the Trickster as the shadow, stealing our purpose when we want to appear flawless – just to amuse himself with our foolishness. If we are open to this impish play, we realize that we have been reminded that we are only human, that we have limitations, no matter how perfect we might wish to appear. ~ Allan Combs & Marl Holland

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Tricksies

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“Virtually all cultures have stories involving the Trickster, most notably connected with the related ideas of creation, boundaries, and change

Since synchronicities abound at times of transition, we can also expect to find the Trickster present at such times, giving with one hand while he might take away with the other, but he will certainly play a few tricks in the process.” ~ Robin Robertson

Of all the mythological characters, it is the Trickster who is most associated with chance and synchronicity, who is the bearer of good or ill fortune, who stirs the sands of fate and melds together glad and unhappy chance in patterns guessed only in the gleam of his eye. ~ Allan Combs & Mark Holland

But the Trickster is nothing if not paradoxical, and so he is also the joker, as selfish and unreliable as they come. His faults are ridiculously evident:

Sometimes he made mistakes, and although he was wise and powerful, he did many foolish things. He was too fond of playing tricks for his own amusement. He was also selfish, boastful, and vain.

~ Allan Combs & Mark Holland

The world of modern mechanistic science is a world bounded by the rigid constraints of causality. It is the Trickster’s predilection to cross such boundaries, bringing the unexpected to the commonplace. His gift of synchronicity, however, seems dark, sinister, and threatening to that world, because it appears to be an intrusion from an alien landscape, a world that mechanistic science cannot enter. Synchronicity plays the devil with the myth of causality. The expressions of the Trickster, who returns to us the life that our boundary-making tries to exclude, raises a satanic specter in the eyes of science. Its qualities are the most offensive: it cannot be objectively tested, and it makes itself unavailable for prediction and control. Synchronicity represents a hostile other because it is acausal, and as such blasphemes against the mythos of the causality principle. ~ Allan Combs & Mark Holland

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Kids Incorporated

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When you sit next to my nephew Noah and Suzie’s son Milo at the dinner table, there’s a good chance you get to witness some pretty funny things. Such was Andy’s vantage point when he captured these photos on his new iPhone (yes folks, Andy is finally on the 21st century texting scene!) We gathered the crew to celebrate Mom’s birthday, and the pictures tell more funny stories than I ever could.

(Be sure to watch for the frightening shot in which Suzie unhinges her lower jaw to take a bite of some pasta. To be fair, I also included a photo in which my mouth was full too. Throwing shade on myself, look, I can do it.)

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When Snowflakes Fall…

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Most of us complain when a snowstorm wreaks havoc with our plans, but lately I’ve learned to embrace them. For a few hours, or as long as the snow keeps us inside, we are bound in one place. A favorite place to ride out a winter storm is at the condo in Boston, where I can watch the falling snow from the cozy environs of that stalwart structure.

A cup of hot tea in hand, a book waiting to be opened on the table, and a slow song like this one on the stereo.

Goodbye, no use leading with our chins
This is where our story ends
Never lovers ever friends
Goodbye, let our hearts call it a day
But before you walk away
I sincerely want to say
I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this, I wish you love

And in July, a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health, and more than wealth, I wish you love
My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So with my best, my very best, I set you free
I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all, when snowflakes fall, I wish you love
But most of all, when snowflakes fall, I wish you love.

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Hunk of the Day: Barrett Pall

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If I wasn’t envious enough of the blessed body, the chiseled face, and the perfect package, I would be envious of the fact that the Hunk of the Day Barrett Pall was recently performing in my dream gig: as the bartender of the ‘Watch What Happens Live’ Playhouse, and personally mixing cocktails for the one and only Andy Cohen. Yeah, that stings a little, but to the beauty go the spoils.

When writing about someone as gorgeous as Mr. Pall, I try to uncover something that makes him a little more relatable, a little more human, a bit more, well, mortal – because no one should be that perfect. His bio doesn’t do much to make me feel better about myself, reading like a much more well-rounded and successful person than I could ever hope to be: writer, model, fitness instructor, personal trainer, fashion lover, world traveler, foodie, life coach and all around good guy.

I thought I might find some less-than-stellar dirt on his website, Artisan & King, but that space turns out to be as perfect as everything else about him. (Grrrr…) I was especially impressed with the ‘Feelings‘ portion of his site, and this passage about a break-up:

This thing called a break-up is made even harder when one person has not done anything immensely wrong. It is simply a difference of the minds, of the hearts, of the souls. A love tank empty, a heart broken, an intertwined spirit unraveled.

There are many different scenarios that lead to break ups, but one thing is certain the love does not just disappear. You may do the breaking up, or you may be the one broken up with, but if the love was real, neither side of this lackluster coin feels like “winning.”

You shared couches, meals, memories. You became each other’s best friend, confidant, partner. You enhanced each other’s comfort, ease, understanding. You started to build a life, introduced family, talked about the future. This person was not your everything, but rather the missing piece.

Then things changed.

The thoughtfulness, the acts of love, the communication all got lost in translation, or simply never arrived. You start to feel the exact opposite of how this person originally made you feel. Your happiness fades. Your eyes tire from tears. You know this simply is not working.

You’ve tried different ways to make yourself heard. You’ve made changes. You’ve done work.

You’ve given hints. You’ve been explicit. You’ve done it all. ~ Barrett Pall

It would be made easier if someone had done something awful, but the truth is nothing makes this easier. Anger only masks the pain and sadness that eventually comes. You wish things had been different, but wishing only makes wishes. Actions had not been employed, and you are left with a heavy heart, not a heart-happy one.

You think back to the times it was magic, and it only makes it sadder.

You could be immature and negative, but it gets you no where, so you choose to honor the love you had, respect the time you spent together, and think of a future when maybe, just maybe, you and your ex can be friends.

Break-ups are not the end, nor are they the beginning. They are simply a time in your life that you must allow yourself to be present with some of your deepest feelings; feelings that surround your own happiness and ultimate life.

We must understand that if there was true love present then we were gifted one of the greatest pleasures of life.

We are not to speak poorly, focus on the bad times and leave that time in our lives in a box. We are meant to take the things we learned from that person, and cherish them, so that we may continue to grow. We shall plant a seed deep inside of us with that person’s name so that a tree of knowledge can grow from the things we learned. We must honor the relationship, the good times, the love, so that we may ultimately honor ourselves. ~ Barrett Pall

So… yeah. I got nothing. No critique, no faults to find, nothing but admiration. Luckily, what I’m left with is inspiration – so I guess I got something after all – and a pretty substantial something at that.

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Be My Guest [Blogger]

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Earlier this year I promised a few changes on www.ALANILAGAN.com, and one of those was the implementation of a Guest Blog feature. In an ongoing effort to make this site slightly more interactive, and to give voice to better writers than myself, I’m opening a few select spots up to those who have something to say. It need not be ground-breaking or earth-shattering (and I’d prefer if it wasn’t the latter as I know I wouldn’t fare well in an earthquake) but I know some of my friends have a gift for gab, as well as some sharp minds and wonderful wits.

First up is my pal Skip, for whom this feature was pretty much created. I begged, pleaded, and bothered him until he agreed to spill some words for the cause, and after reading his virgin entry it’s just as impressive as I knew it would be. He’ll premiere the Guest Blog spot with a two-part introduction that’s as hilarious as it is moving.

After that, I’ll be opening the series up to anyone who has something they’d like to contribute, particularly on the issues of love, life, sexuality, Tom Ford, Ben Cohen, and Madonna. (And pretty much anything else.) If you think you have what it takes, or just have something to say, contact me at alanilagan1[@]gmail.com.

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A Hunky Look Back

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Sometimes, out of laziness or boredom or a greedy wish for a spike in hits, I do something like this. The gentlemen featured in this post have all been Hunks of the Day at one time or another, but are more than worth another look, hence this mini-compilation. First up is one of your favorites, Quinn Jaxon. Noted for his modeling work with Andrew Christian, Mr. Jaxon has also been working on his dancing and acting career in the sunny hills of Hollywood.

Next up is… wait a second. No, this can’t be right. Apologies. There seems to be some confusion, as Justin Bieber was a Non-Hunk of the Day. Sorry, kid. Attitude kills it every time.

Back into the swing of things with Shayne Ward, a musical hunk from across the pond. He should more the make up for that naked Bieber snafu.

And last but not least are the beauteous buttocks of Russell Tovey, who’s come a long hunky way in the last few years. Shake it, shake it!

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Boston Chill, Boston Solitude

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It is, even by Boston standards, a crazy cold night. Not so much because of the temperatures but because of the wind. ‘Fuck’ seems to be ordered by every third person I pass in regards to the evening at hand. I’m in Boston for the weekend, trying to find some comfort in solitude, some way to make the winter bearable.

My soul had started off somewhat chilly too. I had a solo dinner of Pad Thai, with an introductory bowl of Tom Yum soup in an effort to warm the tongue and the body. I was not in the mood to be around people, and ate my dinner alone in the front window table of House of Siam. I had just done something I hardly ever do: canceled an appearance at a friend’s party. I wanted solitude. I wanted quiet. I wanted a moment to myself. Yet as I rounded the corner to Braddock Park, a woman smiled from ear to ear and said that she loved the color of my coat. I smiled back and thanked her. Later, a woman checking me out at the register remarked on my ring, saying how beautiful it was. Even the normally taciturn sales-clerk at Barneys was all smiles, probably because I just purchased one of their Byredo Parfums, but no matter. The city was welcoming me, the city that so many have called cold and charmless, and it thawed my bruised heart like only Boston ever could.

Whenever I run the risk of over-inflating my ego, there are one million different people with one million different pins ready to pop that shit up. Not tonight. Tonight they cradled my tired soul. Tonight they held my raw hand. Tonight they reminded me that just when you are ready to give up on people they still hold the power and capacity to surprise, to please, to comfort.

On this evening, I returned early to the condo. It was just too bitterly cold to explore the city. Besides, I had come there just for this – a quiet night of reading, of hot tea, of looking out onto the gray but beautiful expanse of Braddock Park, up at the towering and twinkling Hancock Tower – all from within the warmth of this sturdy brick building. When safety is no longer to be found in our childhood homes, we have to find it elsewhere.

I pick up a book of Edna St. VIncent Millay poetry, and read the following:

Some Things Are Dark

Some things are dark – or think they are.
But in comparison to me,
All things are light enough to see
In any place, at any hour.
 
For I am Nightmare: where I fly,
Terror and rain stand in the sky
So thick, you could not tell them from
That Blackness out of which you come.
 
So much for “where I fly”: but when
I strike, and clutch in claw the brain –
Erebus, to such brain, will seem
The thin blue dusk of pleasant dream.

A recording of Tibetan prayer bowls rings its low calming tones as I turn off the lights in the front room. Braddock Park glows through the windows. I shuffle into the bedroom, where a candle burns on the bedside table. A ridiculous gray union suit keeps me relatively warm and cozy, and I slide under the covers of the bed to read a little.

So much of my life is spent alone.

And so much isn’t.

 

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Tom Yum

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A fabulous Duchess recently asked me for a soup recipe, and while I didn’t have the exact one she wanted, I’m putting up this version of Tom Yum soup I found online and tested out a few days ago. While my traditional go-to meal for staving off the cold of winter is pho, this one is a worthy winter-beater as well, with the heat from all the chili peppers giving some red-hot goodness to the spicy broth. (If you’re having trouble finding some of the more exotic ingredients and you don’t have access to a decent Asian market, try going online. I’ve found some wonderful suppliers of Kaffir lime leaves just a few clicks away, and once you get a batch they freeze quite well for a while.)

This somewhat-sour soup is said to have medicinal properties as well, with its classic Thai triumvirate of the aforementioned Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, and fresh galangal root. It is indeed hot and spicy, so if you’re unsure, add the chili peppers at the last possible moment (the longer they’re in, the hotter the soup will be).

 Tom Yum Soup
Ingredients
  •          4 cups of water
  •          2 stalks fresh lemongrass, trim off the very end of the root and smash; cut into 1 inch pieces
  •          3 slices fresh galangal root (smashed)
  •          3 fresh kaffir lime leave
  •          1 tbsp. tamarind paste, with or without seeds
  •          1 tbsp. fish sauce
  •          3/4 lb shrimp, medium to large size, shelled and de-veined
  •          12 fresh Thai chili peppers, whole
  •          1/2 small white onion, cut 1/4 inch slices
  •          2 tbsp. roasted chili paste (nam prik pao)
  •          1 (16 oz.) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
  •          1 small ripe tomato, cut into wedges 1/4 inch thick
  •          1 small lime, squeezed
  •          2 sprigs fresh cilantro (more if desired)

Preparation

Bring water to boil over high heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, fish sauce and tamarind paste. Add the shrimp, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes. Add the onion, nam prik pao and mushrooms. Boil for another 7 minutes until the shrimp is cooked through. Add the chile peppers and tomatoes. Turn off the heat. Add the lime juice. Taste to adjust the seasoning, adding fish sauce to taste. Garnish with cilantro, roasted whole chili peppers and a splash of coconut milk if desired and serve hot.

 

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Hunk of the Day: Brian Maier

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This Hunk of the Day is both DJ and model, a requisite combination these days it seems, not that anyone seems to mind in the least. If the guy spinning sets in the booth is better seen shirtless, then so damn be it. And if he strips to his underwear in the name of his craft, well, call me a quickly-won-over fan. Meet Brian Maier, who has his own powerhouse website here. Mr. Naier exemplifies the brawny and beautiful trend whereby more and more of us are giving in to the might and majesty of the real, the hirsute, and the not-so-finely-plucked gentlemen of the moment. Twinks are so three years ago.

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Not-So-Suffering Saffron

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Undeterred by Jo Malone’s take on saffron, I returned to that spicy inspiration while exploring the world of Byredo Parfums this past weekend in Boston. My first brush with the house was in Las Vegas, of all places. I’d just won a hundred bucks on roulette and rather than letting anything ride, I took my paltry winnings and went directly to Barneys to have something to show for it. Since it was well over a hundred degrees (it being Las Vegas in August) I chose ‘Palermo’ – a refreshing grapefruit fragrance that lifted my heat-fatigued spirits.  One never forgets their first time, and for better or worse the lighter, summery aspects of ‘Palermo’ meant that I unfairly relegated Byredo to a similar compartment.

This time of the year demands something darker and heavier, and despite my minimalist leanings earlier in the season, I decided I need something with a little more oomph. As I stepped into Barneys in Boston, I went back to Byredo in the hope that there was something richer than ‘Palermo’ ~ and there most certainly was: the bold ,the brazen, and the bodacious punch of ‘Black Saffron.’

This one has a riotous beginning, starting with a bang and not letting up until the very end. The saffron hits you right up front, followed by a luscious period of leather. Hints of petrol, in a not-entirely unpleasant way (but certainly not for everybody) dominate for a bit. Stay with it through this, don’t run away. It’s not going to explode, but it is something you’ve got to get over. Eventually, after a bit of dry down, the real gem reveals itself: a rich sweet oriental musk, almost cloying, and certainly not quiet. It’s got a similar flavor to that of the similarly-titled ‘Black Orchid’ by Tom Ford.

I thought I wanted to be quiet this winter, but sometimes you’ve just got to make some noise. ‘Black Saffron’ is here to shake it all up. Sound the alarm and prepare the olfactory systems. Full steam ahead.

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