Sean John Unforgivable : Perfume Review



The debut of Sean John Unforgivable, the fragrance from a man known by a variety of nicknames including P. Diddy is a new chapter in the celebrity fragrance trend. Indeed, given the success of Sean Combs’ clothing label, which set the example for other celebrities to follow, it is surprising the fragrance was not released sooner. While my relationship with P. Diddy (or rather with his music) has been problematic, due to the fact my neighbors’ predilection for listening to it at very high volume effectively ensured that I developed none, Mr. Combs’ new fragrance is a completely different story. Created by Dave Apel, Unforgivable is an elegant composition, subtle and sophisticated.

The hesperidic accord has a vivid character conjuring a vision of tangerines and oranges left in the sun. The warmth permeating the fruit underscored by the freshness of the fleshy pulp is laced with the ozonic notes, which persist throughout the composition. Nevertheless, the ozonic element is not the typical sharp and synthetic zing that one tends to associate with the marine themed fragrances. Instead, it lends a bright, cool leitmotif to the sparkling citrus, the warm fruity richness and the green herbs. Apel rendered the sea breeze accord as bound by a sweet warm element, which gives a nice balance to the composition. …

The warmth suggested in the top notes is explored further in the heart, which has a quality of fig skin—soft and silky. The fruity tonality is emphasized by the creamy apple sweetness folded around the spicy verdancy of basil. The fruity facet paired with the delicate herbal touch elicits comparisons to the rosemary and raisin tart I once had in Liguria, however any gourmand aspirations are kept in check by the aquatic notes. The elegant base contrasts the radiant freshness of musky notes with the gentle softness of ambered woods, while retaining the fruity sweetness and the crisp coolness.

The EDP is released as a limited edition, and it is supposed to have a richer feel than the EDT, which will be available in February. It has a soft sillage, as well as subtlety that is not often present in the masculine fragrances. The end result has a certain pleasing freshness that is not compromised by the richer elements of the arrangement. While a woman can certainly wear it, especially if she likes the citrusy-musky compositions, I would say that it would be very appealing on a man, elegant without being too aloof and sexy without being too obvious.

Notes include lemon, bergamot, tangerine, grapefruit, juniper, champagne accord; Mediterranean air accord, basil, iris, clary sage, lavender; cashmere accord, sea moss, sandalwood, amber and tonka bean. A limited edition of the EDP is available at Saks 5th Avenue. The EDT will be released in February of 2006. Sean John line will also include the bath and body product as well as a women’s fragrance for the fall 2006.

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.



  • parislondres: Dear V – great review and all the best to P. Diddy! Marine notes and I do not get along but will test when I see it. Not in a hurry. 🙂
    Hope you are well. December 6, 2005 at 5:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, thank you. The marine notes are rather subtle, but overall, the composition seems to be really more suitable for men. The warm sweet touch is rather nice. December 6, 2005 at 5:30am Reply

  • mikey: I hope this fragrance is better than his absolutely atrocious rapping. HE CAN’T RAP!!!! December 6, 2005 at 11:11am Reply

  • mreenymo: Dang, V! Maybe I should have purchased Diddy’s fragrance for my husband instead of Santana’s. :):)

    Hugs! December 6, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • Robin: Echoing N above, marine notes do not usually agree with me either — and especially not mixed with fruit — but will be interested to try it! December 6, 2005 at 12:04pm Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, well, I must admit that I´m really biased: I don´t like Diddy – or whatever his name is at the moment *yawn* 😉 – so I´m not very interested in his fragrance.
    That doesn´t mean that it can´t be a nice composition (& your review is as wonderfully written as always), but regarding the fact that there are so many other fragrances I´d like to test/buy, I don´t think it´s necessary for me to try this one. December 6, 2005 at 12:59pm Reply

  • julien: I don’t know that one.
    I guess it will never be on release in France,for we only know celine Dion and Jlo or the catastrophic paris hilton and they don’t work very well…we don’t like it in france when a perfume is a “star perfume”.
    So,it is pleasurable for me to read your review about it.
    Thanks…J. December 6, 2005 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Marina: V, I would have never thought of giving Diddy’s scent a time a day, but thank you for giving the heads up and reminding to keep an open mind (or nose :-)). Will definitely try it now. December 6, 2005 at 8:19am Reply

  • Anya: The notes sound like it’s almost all natural, we can only hope. Thanks for the lovely review, and your surprise at being won over is the sign of an open mind — but we all knew you had that, lol. The thing that surprises me is the dull, dreary monocromatic nature of the promo photo. Seanpuffydiddy, or whatever his name is, is known to be a good designer (his clothing line attests to that), and there is a big disconnect from what you describe and what is pictured. Looks more like it would illustrate something from I Hate Perfumes, like cold steel sand. If you were to choose a painting to illustrate it, as you often do, V, what would you choose? December 6, 2005 at 9:18am Reply

  • paru: Yes, the Canadian geese are pesky foes but they’re more like infantry. Celine Dion is more of a tactical weapon reserved for cases of psychological warfare. December 6, 2005 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Gail Adrian: I always suspected that P Diddy had elegance. Smart man, hired a good perfumer and went with class.Gail December 6, 2005 at 9:35am Reply

  • paru: LOL! Poutine is certainly more than most can handle! December 6, 2005 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Tania: Sean Combs has always been a man exquisitely attuned to image. The music he’s put out has always been, as far as I could tell, a mix of a sharp eye for what people want and a pedestrian production style. When he’s not putting out plodding, rhythmically rigid backing tracks for more talented artists like Mary J. Blige (whom in all fairness he made famous), he relies heavily on samples of popular songs, so much so that it’s as if he’s just re-released someone else’s track. (See “I’ll Be Missing You” for worst offense.)

    That said, his fashion sense is superb. He’s a supreme dandy. He likes to shine, expensively, in the most effective way: in classically tailored suits, which look back to prewar silhouettes, with just the touch of absolutely vulgar luxury (a giant canary yellow diamond on his finger, for example) to remind you he’s not a banker.

    I fully expected this fragrance to be excellent, and it sounds as if it is. Thanks for the review, since I doubt I’ll be able to brave the Christmas crush at Saks to smell it. December 6, 2005 at 10:08am Reply

  • paru: I’m not sure you’re missing out on life. Better to say that you are avoiding imminent death 🙂 Cheese curds and gravy poured over fries: heart attack on a plate! December 6, 2005 at 3:20pm Reply

  • PK Fragrance: The man mixes his own record now he mixes his own fragrance notes, wonder if he will have as much success as j-Lo or Britney has with there fragrances, only time will tell. December 6, 2005 at 10:55am Reply

  • julien: Sorry but i guess that catherine deneuve fragrance didn’t even come out in France at the time.
    Never heard about it and smelled it in France.
    I think it was only in america we could find it.
    It is just like Alain delon perfume,if i don’t make a mistake,i think it didn’t work in France though it was also a pretty good perfume. December 6, 2005 at 5:52pm Reply

  • test subject: Sorry to hear that Celine Dion has been exported to France. Sometimes I think she is part of Canada’s advance invasion force 🙂 December 6, 2005 at 1:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, after my recent foray into the celebrity fragrance market, I am open to everything. P.Diddy had very talented people working on this fragrance, the chances of it being interesting were high. December 6, 2005 at 1:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anya, thank you. There are definitely aspects to this composition that are comprised of naturals. The hesperidic accord is quite luscious. The marine notes and the musk, of course, change how you perceive it. So, it is not quite as natural in effect as what one might expect. Of course, the EDP is supposed to use more natural and more expensive ingredients. I have not tested the EDT yet.

    I think that the promo photo is intended to highlight the elegant, sleek character of the composition, especially for people who might expect that Puffy who likes ostentatious will go for the obvious tricks.

    If I were to select a painting, it might be this one:
    Something about the composition has this fresh, yet warm feeling that I have whenever I look at this painting. Maybe, I think of something else later. December 6, 2005 at 1:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Gail, yes, I agree. A smart move indeed. December 6, 2005 at 1:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I like how you characterized his music and fashion sense. From what I know of Sean Combs from various sources, he seems like a tough and smart businessman. New York Times article I read last week said that his Sean John clothing line was the starting point for all of the celebrity products. It was enormously successful.

    Therefore, it does not surprise me that he got the top people for the job and started with the top quality products. The EDP has a quality that cannot be characterized in any way but expensive. It does not fail to remain elegant though. December 6, 2005 at 2:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: PK, I wonder too. I personally would very much like this fragrance on a man. December 6, 2005 at 2:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mikey, I am not the biggest fan of rap around (my luck to be stuck with neighbours who are), but the fragrance is quite good. December 6, 2005 at 2:03pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, there is always another time, another occasion. Santana’s fragrance for men is very nice, and in fact, I enjoyed it far more than the women’s version. December 6, 2005 at 2:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I do not know how much you would like the marine aspect (that is what I usually do not find appealing either), but everything has a nice balance, so the result is very appealing. December 6, 2005 at 2:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, I understand what you mean, although I have been trying to keep an open mind towards things I might be prejudiced against. It is always interesting to discover something new. Of course, there are lots of fragrances to sample. I agree with you on that point. In fact, there are almost too many fragrances! 🙂 December 6, 2005 at 2:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, celebrity fragrance is a very American trend. It might take too long to list all of the celebrities who either have fragrances or are working on their own.

    Well, even Deneuve’s fragrance did not make it, and it was a beautiful composition backed by a beautiful actress. Are you familiar with it? December 6, 2005 at 2:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, I thought that Canadian geeze were enough for that purpose. December 6, 2005 at 2:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: What is the heavy artillery then? 🙂 December 6, 2005 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Tania: Poutine. December 6, 2005 at 2:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I have never tried it. What is it like? I keep hearing the accounts, but only from the biased Canadians. 🙂 December 6, 2005 at 3:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, at least, I do not see it States-side yet. December 6, 2005 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Tania: V, I have never tried it either, but the Canadians I know assure me I am missing out on life. December 6, 2005 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Tania: I hear there’s a poutine note in Unforgivable. December 6, 2005 at 3:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, yes, that is exactly what I hear, however from the descriptions, sounds like Paru is right. 🙂 December 6, 2005 at 3:36pm Reply

  • test subject: A poutine note in a fragrance! LOL! That would be something. If it were true I could safely say that the invasion has begun. Soon, you will be assimilated. December 6, 2005 at 3:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Nah, T. is joking. There is no fear of invasion just yet. December 6, 2005 at 3:51pm Reply

  • Katie: Well drat. I thought I might be able to skip right over this one. The celeb frag thing in and of itself usually holds no appeal for me, and as a musician P. Diddy has never ever impressed me with anything other than his marketing skills. Apparently this is one celebrity scent I will have to take a moment to at least test out. Kudos to you V, for being so able to keep an open mind. December 6, 2005 at 4:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I cannot say that I understand the celebrity fragrance trend that well, especially since I do not have interest in most celebrities with fragrances, but it is interesting to test them anyway. I hope that the EDT will not be too different from the EDP. December 6, 2005 at 4:34pm Reply

  • kristen: A few comments…

    1. V, amazing review as usual! 🙂

    2. Tania, you are SO incredibly on point with your description of Diddy.

    3. Poutine = delicious!!! December 6, 2005 at 9:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, I think that the marketing campaign of Deneuve in Europe was botched from the start, even though Catherine Deneuve tried to salvage what she could. The fragrance is lovely–a green chypre, elegant and refined.

    Alain Delon fragrances are indeed quite good (not all, but some), and some of them were done by famous noses like Maurice Roucel (FM Musc Ravageur, SL Iris Silver Mist). December 7, 2005 at 12:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kristen, thank you! Your comment on poutine and Paru’s high endorsement make me think that I need to try it. I am sure I would not be able to get away from it the next time I am in Montreal. December 7, 2005 at 12:08am Reply

  • vambo: l think Diddys new perfume is a real inspiration for black people. Carry on doing big things diddy, l’m right behind you and l suggest all black people give this guy support too. Black people have 2 have something in this world too. December 16, 2005 at 12:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Vambo’s comment which unfortunately got deleted during the typepad update:

    “I think Diddys new perfume is a real inspiration for black people. Carry on doing big things diddy, l’m right behind you and l suggest all black people give this guy support too. Black people have 2 have something in this world too.” December 19, 2005 at 6:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Vambo, I think that it is a very nice fragrance, and since Diddy seemed to have had some input into the creative process, it is laudable. December 19, 2005 at 6:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, I just read about the meeting! Must have been so much fun. I think that this fragrance is very well-composed, and it has an elegant feel about it. I am surprised that the bottle casing is plastic. I thought that it was glass. January 27, 2006 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Victoria O: V, as you may have read on my blog, I have tried this now and I had an opportunity to meet with the perfumer, David Apel. I find it to be very nicely crafted. I was surprised how much I liked it. Very fresh and clean smelling. They took us through all the notes and we got to sniff them individually. It was very insightful to find out how it all came together. My friend and I particularly like the Mediterranean air accord. My husband doesn’t really wear scents and if he did, it would never be a P Diddy scent, no matter how they package it. Even though all evening they referred to it as “SeanJohn”.
    Victoria O January 27, 2006 at 3:55pm Reply

  • Diane: I was ready to buy the Sean John fragrance for my boyfriend. . .until I noticed that the ad showed P.Diddy with two woman, neither one was black. I have nothing against white woman or mixed relationships. I just feel he should acknowledge the woman who would be more inclined to purchase his products. March 12, 2006 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Skunk Fondler: Just like Sean Combs’ music – marketed by him – created with someone else’s skill.
    Saying he’s good for black people is like saying money gained by any means is good for black people – OK, it isn’t drug running he’s doing, but it remains vacuous, shallow and materialistic – all the things that keep the black race down perhaps? Do you see him from his position trying to write a book or open eyes or be outspoken like Kanye West? No, he might lose that next million! Well I’m just an ignorant white boy, but like Dead Prez said: “You would rather have a lexus, some justice, a dream or some substance? A beamer, a necklace or freedom?”
    And that my friends applies to everyone – unless you like living in a prison.
    Oh, and the white women only thing in the advert – would be marketing aimed at pandering to black/white male fantasies, as well as the general sex appeal of the women. I think once the taboos the fantasies are based on are gone, it will be a mark of progress beyond primative past-based stereotypes, hence why I pick up on it here… July 9, 2006 at 6:25pm Reply

  • TimeKoder13: Funny how there are so many realities out there. Diddy wants to be so “hood” yet he cries like a bebe when the real streets come calling. The guy helped ruin hip hop and ushered in the new wave of consumerism. I love my gangsta homies but I don’t try to be them while chillin on Shelter Isle with my “happens to be white” wife. $300, yeah he’s down with the homies. MT. Vernon ain’t Harlem, I got don’t care how many old timers moved there. August 28, 2006 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Jose: P.Diddy or now known as simply ‘Diddy’ has always put out the best. Whether it be in Music, Fashion or now colones for men with his Fragrance ‘Unforgivable’. He has always proved his dominace and has set the bar up so high for people to follow! I live in Austrlia and I am a massive fan of R&B/Hip-Hop icon, and my opinon is going to be biased whether or not his stuff is good or not! BUT his first colone for men is the SEX its the hottest fragrance today, and its hard to miss in stores at it just stands out amongst the others. When I saw his advertisment on T.V. I new I had to buy it right away (by the way, the ad was the sexiest and greatest ad for a fragrance ive ever seen on T.V it straight away caputres you and makes you watch it unlike others i.e Hilary Duff (LOL)).
    Sean Combs once agian proves why he is the best, its totally awsome! I recommened everyone to buy it or at least test it. Its damn worth it!


    Jose December 21, 2006 at 6:32am Reply

  • Sage: Does anyone else think that the campaign for this fragrance implies rape? November 10, 2007 at 4:20am Reply

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