4/15/12

Brut Classic (Helen of Troy)



I get one day off each week (Sunday), and I used today to seek out members of the Brut family. There's no escaping it - I'm a fragrance nut.

There's a pretty good fragrance shop in Waterbury that sells all sorts of classic men's frags. I went there and snagged a 3 oz. glass bottle of Brut Classic. That's the one in the middle of the picture, with the silver medallion hanging on its hairy chest. Handsome, isn't he?

To its left is Brut 33 - i.e. Brut Splash-On - which was reviewed yesterday. To its right is the 3 oz. plastic bottle version of Brut Cologne, which I was able to find at Walgreens for the surprisingly high price of $9.56. In comparison, Splash-On was only $6.56, and you get 7 ounces of it. Brut Classic was $21.

Still, that's 13 ounces of Brut for a combined total of $37.12. Quite affordable, all things considered.

I'll do a two line review of the plastic bottle version of Brut Cologne: this fragrance opens with a smooth lemon balm/lavender/mint combination, quickly joined by ylang-ylang, jasmine, amber, musk, and a touch of powder. It reads as a significantly higher concentration of Brut Splash-On, with more punch in the top, and a tangible drydown that smells pleasantly green and barbershoppy.

Now, on to Brut Classic. This is the most summery-green barbershop cologne I've ever encountered. I can't remember if I've ever sniffed Brut Classic before today, but I know I've worn the regular "original" cologne in plastic. I'm somewhat neutral on the plastic bottle version, although I lean more toward liking it than not. The Classic version in glass, however, is simply divine juice.

Classic opens with a rush of mint, lemon juice, anise, basil, and lavender. The mint is mentholated and bright green, and its pairing with basil and anise makes for a warm, grassy feeling; the lavender lifts the opening accord over Brut's heavier heart notes. After a minute, sweet ylang-ylang and jasmine appear, very indolic and ripe. Here's where Classic approaches the barbershop feel of its plastic bottle brethren. The floral notes become soft and powdery, and an ambery vanillic drydown, still tinged by the greenness of mint and lemon, imbues itself into skin. The resultant smell is very clean, and quite wonderful.

The biggest difference between Classic and "Original Cologne" is in the treatment of the top notes and the drydown. The heart notes are very similar, too close to really dissect. But in Classic, the herbal minty greenness is much more pronounced, while the lemon and mint stands out more in Original. Also, anise is used more generously in Classic, and lends the scent some depth and balance it might otherwise lack. I also sense a higher fidelity to the floral notes in Classic than in Original. While both fragrances have a decidedly barbershop-like drydown, Classic is more of a fresh green smell, while Original holds more powder, and smells more abstract.


The usage of ylang-ylang and jasmine is genius in Brut. Without these floral notes, the scent would smell like Mennen's Skin Bracer (which by the way isn't really made by Mennen anymore). It would be an abstract mint, lemon, vanilla affair, very fresh and clean. Brut is classified as an ambery fougère, and hugs the outskirts of the category, coming very close to orientalism. Unlike other ambery fougères like Zino and Allure Homme, Brut embraces greener components and has a very naturalistic feel. I'm reminded of the barbershop oriental Royal Copenhagen when I sniff Brut Classic's middle development, as the spicy floral components mirror RC's overall vibe. But I also sense a touch of Kouros' earthy woodiness, particularly in the first ten seconds after the juice leaves the atomizer. Brut Classic is a very well defined scent.

Wise noses have asked lesser snouts why they hate on Brut so much, given its 40+ year commercial run. It seems en vogue to trash this fragrance in the face of newer, fresher offerings. Perhaps other things have surpassed Brut in quality and style, but then again, perhaps not. I'm convinced that there is an extremely small population of guys under the age of 35 who wear Brut. Maybe 1% of guys in that demographic. For those over 35, and even more so among those over 40, Brut enjoys more popularity. I'm guessing a solid 35% of middle-aged cologne-wearing males have at least one bottle of Brut in their bathroom cabinet. This is enough to keep it commercially popular and relatively cheap.


My suppositions about Brut's demographic appeal are musings on the proper time and place for Brut. I think Brut is a great all-season scent that really shines during the spring and summer months. And I think it's something very few young guys are wearing these days. This gives me all the more reason to wear it. There's an attitude that young women crinkle their nose at Brut, but I'm not so sure. Maybe some teenagers and party girls dislike it. But nothing appeals to all women of all ages. Some fragrances find love strictly with preppy college girls, while others appeal to women with retro sensibilities - there may be a smattering of hippies, vegans, artists, and philosophers in that group. There are all kinds of women in the world, and I'm sure a sizable number of them like how Brut smells on a man.

All I know is, they don't keep making this stuff because it smells raunchy and unwearable. Conceptual experiments end up gone and forgotten; Brut Classic is anything but forgettable.














11 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear you liked Brut Classic so much. This is an incredible scent. I remember a lot of my relatives wearing Brut back in the Seventies when I was a kid, and Brut Classic smells exactly the way I remember it.

    Good review of this gem. The other thing about it that is superior to the Brut Cologne is that Classic has a much stronger oakmoss smell. It blasts right out of the bottle, whereas in the Cologne I can barely smell any moss.

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    1. Thanks, yeah I like it very much. I'm planning on wearing it a lot this week. There's definitely oakmoss in there, and to my nose a boatload of treemoss, too. Actually the treemoss is what comes out more in the plastic bottle version to my nose, while the glass holds a stronger duality between the two mosses. Fascinating scent. Ridiculously underrated by today's youngsters.

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    2. Very informative.

      Would Brut Classic be a good hot weather, day scent, in small doses? (like 1 spray to the chest)

      Thanks.

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    3. Brut Classic would be fine in the summer during daytime, but I recommend more than 1 spray to the chest. This is a very weak EDT, bordering on being a pure EDC. My suggestion for summer wear is to splash yourself liberally with Brut Splash-On, then spray five or six times with Brut Classic, and a couple more sprays to your shirt collar. That will give you about three hours of powdery goodness, with a very mild drydown for the rest of the day.

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    4. Thanks. I will keep that in mind.

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  2. Have you ever seen the 25.6 oz. Splash On Cologne in the glass bottle? This bottle also has the silver chain and medallion. It's still on Amazon. I'm trying to figure out if its the same juice as that of the 3 oz. Brut Classic spray bottle.

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    1. I have seen it (at a brick and mortar, a shop girl offered it to me), and I believe it is the exact same as the 3 oz bottle (which is the one I bought). The big bottle was only forty dollars, but I didn't really know where I'd put a bottle that size. Just seemed impractical from a space standpoint. Otherwise, it's a great deal.

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  3. Great review! I am waiting for Father's Day to roll around (a long way off yet) to replenish my dwindling supply of Caron Pour Un Homme, and so have taken up Brut Classic as a cheap and cheerful work scent until mid-June (as warm-weather fragrances go, I own Eau Sauvage but cannot bring myself to wear it every day to work - things just get too important, if that makes any sense). Anyway, I have worn the splash cologne and the 'modern reserve' before, but I agree that this is much nicer. It really is a surprisingly comforting scent, and the barbershop aspects seems to focus everything else going on in the scent much more characteristically than I have noticed with other incarnations... it actually reminded me almost immediately of Paco Rabanne, in a good way. It is remarkably comforting, and while this must be in part a matter of nostalgia (though my Dad was an RC wearer), I think that it is also because it is very decently constructed in terms of balancing those lingering, wet citrus and mint notes with the low-key sweetness of the anise and coumarin and the warmth of the musk. The other thing I notice is that Classic seems to have more guts than any of the other versions I've tried. Sillage is actually quite good on me for the first 2-3 hours, and longevity seemed to clock in around 6+ hours based on 4 or 5 sprays right out of the shower. It makes me wonder what younger guys (whose wives or girlfriends aren't reminded of middle-management uncles of yore) would think. Anyway, thanks -- I'm pretty sure I would not have reached for this at the drugstore had I not read one of your many references to its wearability and friendliness, and am now very happy to have it both for utility and for reference.

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    1. Brut is the one scent I'm worried about. The current formula in plastic bottles and "Special Reserve" are not as good as the stuff on shelves a few years ago. I've stocked up on two five ounce bottles of the cologne and have a line to one of those massive forty ounce bottles of the older formula that I'm thinking of getting. Call it fougere panic!

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  4. I get it. I feel the same way about Caron PuH... even though it shows no signs of being changed, the Montreal dealer I usually buy from to avoid duties in Canada has sold out of the stuff, which I thought would never happen. I'm thinking of getting my hands on the 500 ml (or 750!) bottle the next time I'm flush. Just for reference, this bottle packaging looked a bit old: two price tags, marking it down to about fifteen Canadian dollars, the price of a decent deli sandwich in greenbacks I suspect. The label said 2008, though there was no price code. I may buy a few backup bottles myself - this stuff is really buoying, and somehow rather seamlessly melds with my dress code for work at a prep school (mostly rehabilitated thrift store suits from the 60's & 80's). I keep hearing noise about how Sartorial is similar, but am I ready (or rich enough?) to be that postmodern? There's something livable about the sturdiness of this that makes its corniness pretty endearing.

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    1. I've been eyeing Sartorial also, but something keeps holding me back. I think it's the idea that it's similar to Brut and not Rive Gauche. For the money Penhaligon's commands, I expect something to emulate a pricier scent (and do it even better), while with Brut I just see it as something that can't really be improved upon. You mentioned Caron - a lot of these old fougeres are on the endangered list. There's nothing boosting sales anymore. The gourmand/cheap designer/niche movement has overtaken traditionalism.

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