5/28/12

Pour Monsieur Concentrée (Chanel)

The concentrée version of Chanel Pour Monsieur is not to be confused with the standard Pour Monsieur, which is a different animal altogether. I would review the Henri Robert creation, but fear it's an exercise in futility these days, as the only findable version of this classic fresh chypre is Jacques Polge's reboot, unless you happen to frequent the Chanel boutique in Paris. I don't know why Chanel has chosen to replace its signature masculine, but then explaining anything Chanel does is virtually impossible.

Pour Monsieur Concentrée is the only masculine from this brand that I truly do not like, even more so than Platinum Égoïste. Polge has frequently been charged with re-creating antiquated scents using modern materials, and in this case the fragrance winds up smelling like a chemical bath. The lemon and lavender opening is so harsh and stringent that connotations with Lemon Pledge are unavoidable. Even more disturbing is that this accord retains its strength for an ungodly period of time - no less than an hour. In this phase, PMC is borderline unbearable, and skirts the domain of being a "scrubber." It takes patience and virtue to see it through.

Once the heaviness lifts, things do improve a bit. A touch of spicy sweetness enters the fray, possibly cardamom, and the greenness of vetiver and oakmoss darkens everything considerably. Within three hours, PMC has become a muted green skin scent, mossy, creamy, and altogether very staid and unexciting. The pendulum has swung to the opposite side of the cutting table, and now the fragrance has gone from being sharp and blaring, to stodgy and trite. Sniffing it from my arm, I wonder how anything this laconic in gait could make such a wide lope. I also wonder who in 2012 would actually wear PMC without harboring a constant sense of bitter irony. These are times when buttoned-up men's fragrances are the domain of the dead, or the eccentric. Yet they spring from classical tradition, with a legacy of vibrant life. If their updated selves are rendered correctly, they can guide current generations of young bucks into profusely successful lives. Nothing speaks better to personal class and good taste than a beautifully tailored masculine chypre, especially one from a world-class fashion house. It's the sort of thing that attracts pretty women, like so many flies to a flame.

Sadly, Pour Monsieur Concentrée is a clumsy welding of old ideals to new ideas, and so its time will never come to pass at all. There are certainly bigger humdingers out there, things that make PMC smell gorgeous in comparison. But given the slew of better masculines within the brand's own range, I can't see why anyone wouldn't choose to wear Antaeus, Égoïste, or Allure Homme instead.









5/21/12

Citrus Paradisi (Czech & Speake)



I never understood the enthusiasm among niche fans for Citrus Paradisi. It has its detractors as well, but generally the fragrance is well received. It's certainly made well, as all C&S products are, and it exhibits its concept deftly enough, but the concept is the problem for me. It's too much of a good thing.

When I applied this fragrance to skin, the first thing that hit me was grapefruit, and lots of it. Grapefruit is what it's all about. The bitter freshness of natural grapefruit juice makes for an interesting and attractive smell, yet it possesses a strange funkiness that clings to nostril hairs long after the liquid has dried. When rendered honestly, grapefruit in perfume achieves the same funk, usually in the drydown. Sometimes grapefruit is used to balance an eau de cologne, and prevent things from swaying too far into "clean" territory. When dosed properly, it's the perfect garnish for an olfactory fruit salad.

The intensity of Citrus Paradisi's grapefruit note is scary. I'm accustomed to sitting down, slicing my grapefruit open with a fruit knife, inhaling its lovely fumes, and digging in. But the grapefruit in this scent handcuffed me to the radiator and had me for breakfast. Just as I'm recovering from fructose shock, in crashes a wave of civet, and now I'm chaffing my wrist, trying to escape a Supernova Quasimodo Megafunk from Hell. The pungency of the citrus, which is already dialed up to eleven, now has urinous musk backing its gremlin advances. Try as I might, I can't get on board with anything this overtly funky. It's one-note funky, "just plain funky," no-fun funky. The far drydown smells like a forgotten ashtray in a Moravian pub.

Is Citrus Paradisi worth a try, even for citrus fans? I say funk it.











5/19/12

Eau Sauvage Parfum (Dior)


Here's how I would have done Eau Sauvage in parfum form, using the same ingredients as Francois Demachy:

The top note would have been a rich (but not piercing) bergamot, the kind found in the finest Earl Grey tea. The tart citrus would metamorphose into a bright, grassy vetiver, very bitter green, and very fresh. Within twenty minutes the vetiver would darken and become rootier, smokier, yielding its verdancy to mysterious myrrh. An hour later, this smoky vetiver would lighten, its roots giving way to sweet myrrh, touched in the end by a lick of lingering bergamot.

Had Demachy gone this route, I would be inclined to purchase a bottle. Sadly, things did not go my way. Eau Sauvage Parfum has no top notes to speak of. It careens onto skin, all ingredients accounted for, and smells blob-like: thick, sour, and brownish-green.

Within five minutes, the blob begins to resolve into peripheral renditions of myrrh and vetiver, with the vetiver rapidly taking the fore. And what a gorgeous vetiver it is, so incredibly smoky and deep, with intensification attributable to the persistent myrrh. At this stage the myrrh is not sweet, but burnt-smelling, adding to the fire. It's a very oriental feel, something perfect for a crisp autumn day.

But it doesn't last long enough - after twenty minutes, the myrrh withdraws, and leaves naked vetiver, still smelling smoky, but not quite like before. Somewhere in the shadowy cloud are hints of jasmine, very velvety smooth, and just a tiny bit sweet. It's probably Hedione, which was debuted all those years ago in the original version. Ten minutes on, the vetiver has weakened considerably, achieving a brightness that I expected to smell earlier on in this perfume. The culprit is bergamot, now stepping forward to reveal itself as a supporting note! It's a pleasantly bitter citrus, and it twinkles like a green star in the vetiver's twilight.

At the forty-five minute mark the fruit has sweetened, and suddenly the only thing radiating from my skin is a lone myrrh note. It smells a little sweet, a little spicy, a little green, and a little too little. Where's the rest of Eau Sauvage Parfum? This is it? Seventy-five minutes into its evolution, the myrrh proves to be the final straw to this scent's progression, and simply fades into a gauzy white haze.

Eau Sauvage Parfum smells more like an eau de parfum, but I'm nitpicking. In short, this scent is a smoky vetiver/myrrh accord, with just a transitional touch of bergamot lurking under its grey-green cloak. I'm sure it'll be pleasant to wear in October and November, when nature's greens are touched with campfire smoke and the smell of burning leaves, but as a summer fragrance it fails miserably. There's just no way I could wear this on a 95° day in July. I'd rather wear Guerlain Vetiver, or even Grey Vetiver.

Sephora is currently selling Eau Sauvage Parfum, but it's not flying off the shelves. I'm guessing the original will remain more popular, and that' probably for the better.









5/16/12

My Spring Picks

May is the loveliest month. It's not too hot, sometimes even cool outside, with occasional showers coloring everything forty shades of green. And man oh man, do I like me some green.

This month I've used a steady rotation of all the greenest stuff in my arsenal. Mind you, I consider anything with heady florals and herbs to be green, as well as pure greens featuring citrus and grasses. The season for green is surprisingly short - by August I've switched to muskier fare. But it's beautiful while it lasts. The past two weeks have seen repeated applications of the following:
Tsar (Van Cleef & Arpels) - Simply an amazing fougère. Such gorgeous bergamot, lavender, artemisia, oakmoss, and many other dark, spicy green notes. It's more refreshing than a walk through a forest in the rain.

Sport Field (Adidas) - This is Creed Green Valley Lite. A pop of lemon and ginger, then hours of air conditioned coumarin playing the grassiest one-note I've ever smelled. Divine, and criminally affordable.

Silences (Jacomo) - Perfect for rainy days. Starts off with a punch of galbanum, and slips through the reeds into flowers and bouquets of cut stems. When I smell this on my shirt the day after, I totally understand the meaning of "true green" in perfumery. This is nature in a bottle.

Sung Homme (Alfred Sung) - A good spicy, soapy, and unerringly green chypre with the soul of a fresh fougère. Nice on Thursdays and Fridays when Irish Spring 2.0 is the desired effect.

Horizon (Guy Laroche) - Bright grapefruit, mint, lavender, crushed herbs, dihydromyrcenol, ambergris, and cedar, all bundled in a seaweedy aquamarine-colored bottle. I don't reach for it as often as the others, but I never regret it when I do. Another good one for the rain.

Brut (Helen of Troy) - White floral powder. Not good for high heat, but when there's still a cool breeze to cut the sun, Brut works wonders, especially with light application.

Pour un Homme de Caron (Caron) - I'm never really sure when to wear this scent. Its frigid lavender top is too cold for winter; the warm and powdery vanilla-musk base is too heavy for summer. Spring is a good season I suppose. Autumn too, but we have Yatagan for autumn. Anyway, you can't go wrong with hyper-realistic bouquets of French lavender. The fragrance for gentlemen, this stuff is.
Just as an aside: Am I the only one who finds Kristen Stewart attractive? My guy friends think she's mediocre, even unattractive. As a movie buff I'm familiar with all the current beautiful female stars, and there's certainly a slew of more traditionally-beautiful women coming out of Hollywood, but I dunno . . . Ms. Stewart has always captured my imagination in ways the other gals couldn't. Although I hate most of her films (except The Runaways), I often find myself watching them just to see how she moves through the frames. The girl's got something going on. Anyhoo . . . thanks for reading.











5/15/12

Cool Water Woman (Davidoff)



Cool Water has never been successfully flanked, which is a bit of a surprise, given the talent behind it. In the early '90s Davidoff greenlit Pierre Bourdon as the creator of the gender flanker for their megahit - Davidoff and Pierre Bourdon's megahit, that is - and it was eventually released in 1996. Although he had created several successful perfumes prior to Cool Water, it was Davidoff that really put Bourdon on the map, and probably made him richer than most movie stars. If I had to guess, I'd say the deal to make Cool Water Woman was probably where the money really washed ashore for this man. One also has to wonder if his contractors were pleased with the results.

Cool Water Woman is odd because it boasts the usual feminine trappings - sweet fruits, flowers, sheer musks - yet bucks expectations with its balance. Everything is muted, toned down, and literally submersed in salty water. The opening is a light citrus scent, somewhere between lemon and orange, with hints of bergamot keeping things sharp. It pierces the nose for all of ten seconds before vanishing completely behind a particularly vivid salt note. The mineral is clean, filtered, like someone dumped Morton salt in a swimming pool. Five minutes after the citrus vanishes beneath this shimmery surface, darker fruits resurface; the original Cool Water's sweet lavender appears and guides blackcurrant, raspberry, and blackberry back up to the surface. The air-freshened lavender mixed with fruit creates the olfactory illusion of melon, but the fruits are so watercolored and abstract that they never smell "girly" or trite.

As the scent dries further, more fragments of the original fragrance float by. Touches of cedar, jasmine, and tobacco, all minimized, lend beautiful depth to the watery effects. It's at this stage that Cool Water Woman smells like holy water, a stale pond subtly radiating the sweetness of everyone else's perfume. It's nice, it's quite strange, and it's totally unisex. If Tommy Girl is considered unisex, then this scent could be sold in the men's section of the store, no problem. It's far more ambiguous than Calice Becker's potion, and easier to wear in high heat.

There's no reason to trade regular Cool Water in for its feminine counterpart, but if you're in search of a watery summer scent that doesn't smell like candyfloss, this might be different enough to make the cut. Bourdon has done better, but his worst fragrance is still infinitely more compelling than the best offerings of other perfumers. Not to say this scent is his worst, but of all the Bourdon scents I've tried, it's my least favorite. Still, Cool Water Woman crushes Nautica Voyage like a grape.











5/14/12

Burberry For Men (Burberry)

I've always avoided the House of Burberry, a company with an inane public image, made worse by inane advertisements. The whole tartan sleeve motif really grinds my gears. Tartan sleeves? Really? My perfume is more sophisticated than yours, see? Cuz it's wearing a kilt. Is yours wearing a kilt? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Thankfully, the flagship masculine in Burberry's lineup eschews all things tartan, favoring traditional glass instead. Nothing embarrassing there. Released in 1995, Burberry For Men is a true '90s fresh fougère, packed to the gills with minty citrus, clean lavender, and sweet woods. It opens with a bright puff of peppermint iridescence, made astringent by bergamot and piquant floral notes. This opening reminds me of Tom Ford for Men's, minus the lemon. It's fresh, smooth, and a little hard to smell. It's just an inoffensive fizz, which makes for rapid olfactory fatigue. But at least there aren't any blaring fruits or laundry musks. This is demure stuff.

Eventually tobacco and cedar notes appear, forming a pleasantly staid heart accord of dry, sweet woods. The woodiness is prominent for the duration of the scent's life - I get about six hours out of it. The far drydown yields an amenable vanillic musk, very soft and bittersweet. Burberry isn't the most exciting fragrance, but it's a good scent for the workplace. It's something an introspective and serious-mannered high school senior would wear while perusing the sports section of the library, utterly oblivious of the librarian's longing gaze.

Try this scent, before it's discontinued and gone forever . . .











5/13/12

Truth or Dare (Madonna/Coty)



Some of you may wonder why I mix feminine perfumes in with the masculine reviews. This is supposed to be a men's fragrance blog, right? I operate on the basis of what I think a man could wear in sophisticated company without recriminations from others. Many feminine perfumes small overly feminine, full of bright raspberry sweetness and brown sugar. These fragrances rarely interest me for obvious reasons. Once in a while there's a perfume that employs traditionally feminine notes, but then I cross reference "traditionally feminine notes" with "universal appeal" and, if I'm lucky, find something to write about. Such was the case with Truth or Dare, Madonna's first mass-market celebuscent.

Madonna is actually not the Cheese Whiz celebrity that some people think she is. I can remember when I was four years old, swinging in the backyard with La Isla Bonita playing in my head. I loved that song. I still like it. Her music was pure pop, very bouncy and fun, but there was a maturity about it. She was perfectly in sync with her time.

I never thought she was as far out there as the media made her out to be. Yeah, she always underwent a style transformation with every album, and her dance moves got increasingly bizarre, but if you compare her to the Thompson Twins, or even Heart, her look was no more or less daunting. Lady Gaga is a space alien by comparison.

Until now, I always thought it was odd that Madonna hadn't released a fragrance. But smelling Truth or Dare, I realize that she was holding out for something that would have universal appeal, and classical poise in a perpetual "down" market. The scent trends more toward "Truth" instead of "Dare." There's nothing daring in the mix, but this is a sincerely-composed, well conceived perfume, something perfect for people of all ages. It opens with a beautiful bouquet of tuberose, gardenia (which isn't overbearing), and heady jasmine. There's a synthetic sweetness highlighting the indolic aspects of the flowers, which wouldn't work if these petals weren't so gorgeously stinky! Sugar gives it balance, but it isn't heavy-handed, and the natural richness of the floral notes are allowed to shine and dominate. On my male and somewhat oily skin, a pretty benzoin and vanilla accord appears, evolving from the nondescript sweetness in the opening. The benzoin smells very "true" and creates a warm nuttiness in the base. Strong, but playful stuff, very mature, very French in feel. Interesting bottle, too.

Can men wear this? Yes, but it depends on his geographical location. American guys can wear this when clubbing in New York City, but I wouldn't take it out for a Sunday drive through Litchfield County. European guys can wear it more freely; Truth or Dare isn't out of place at the Czech opera, on a tram in Vienna, or walking the streets of Urbino, Italy. White flowers have gender versatility because of their stinkiness - the indoles either smell crassly feminine, or mind-numbingly masculine. Think of the wildflowers in Kouros, and you have a good point of reference.

Good job, Madge!













5/12/12

Soap Review: Irish Spring "Icy Blast"

For once I'm stymied, completely unsure of what I'm smelling. I thought this would be easy to do. I was wrong.

It's a bit silly to do a flat-out review of regular Irish Spring soap because everyone knows what Irish Spring smells like. We've all used it, or had a brother or uncle who did. I've pontificated on its fake greeny goodness many a time. Enough has been said.

The other day while shopping at the grocery store, I realized that I've never used the "blue Irish Spring," otherwise known as Icy Blast. I figured, if I don't know what it smells like, it's likely others don't either. There's definitely a smaller fan base for this version of Irish Spring than for the original. It has been around for a long time, but Colgate does a lousy job in marketing it, and Icy Blast sometimes gets pushed behind those big packs of regular Irish Spring on store shelves. I had a friend in high school who used it - I vaguely remember him saying something about hating the regular soap, and that's all I recollect. I'm really starting from square one here.

I expected Icy Blast to smell icy. Like a blast of sporty shampoo freshness. For some reason I was imagining the sport flanker of Aqua Velva, which is mentholated sweetness in a pocket-sized plastic bottle (and somehow a million times better than original Ice Blue). On the other hand, I expected it would suck shit through a straw with a smile. Anything called "Icy Blast" can't be good. It must smell like a sport soap, just faceless citrus overexposed by a dozen stops. Take this as a lesson for pre-figuring fragrances: it's not always possible. No matter how standard the packaging, or ubiquitous the concept, some things are going to throw you for a loop. When shower time arrived, I popped a bar of Icy Blast out of its oddly retro green box - which should be blue, but isn't - and stepped into the water.

Upon lathering, my first impression was, "this is grapefruit." There's a little waft of funky-sweet grapefruit that pops off the bar, but it isn't sharp, or cold, and certainly isn't alone - it's blended with a few other things. Try as I might, I can't figure out what those other things actually are. At first I thought they were violet and sandalwood on the same vanillic soapy base of original Irish Spring. Five minutes later, the violet became lavender. Then the idea that violet was there seemed ridiculous. Lavender and violet share no similarities whatsoever, but a highly-sweetened synthetic lavender, like the one in Cool Water, might at least be in the same general olfactory ballpark. That would explain why Davidoff's megahit keeps getting hitched to Creed's.

As I was rinsing the lather off my skin, I figured out the premise: Icy Blast is a fruity composition, capped by an attenuated sugared grapefruit note, which rests on original Irish Spring's green-vanilla base, and it's all laced together by something that smells like synthetic lavender, or maybe violet, or maybe violet-lavender. The fruits are pinkish-blue, probably berries, but they're vague. I expected vagueness, as it's soap, not fine fragrance, but I didn't expect an inviting mystery. It's a very good scent, somewhat oriental in nature, definitely fruity, definitely fresh, and entirely impossible to pin down. It isn't quite as strong as the original Irish Spring, but it's not shy, either. As I stepped out of the shower and sniffed the usual after-shower skinscent, I felt like violet was back in the picture again. I also felt like I was going a little insane.

Try this version of Irish Spring if you want to have fun playing an olfactory guessing game, made all the more compelling by the simple fact that this mystery scent smells incredible. I know there are far better soaps out there, and I'm sure they're all amazing, but I'm an Irish Spring guy, and I'm all the richer for it.















5/10/12

Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme (Chanel)



As much as I love the original Allure Homme, I'm a little mystified by Chanel's compulsive need to create flankers for it. Allure has always been a crowd pleaser, an all-around friendly, accessible scent that's always in style, despite occasionally smelling a bit "90s." The rumors are true - Allure is a multi-faceted and somewhat mysterious fresh fougère that smells differently at different moments of its evolution on skin. Sometimes you get sweet tonka and neutered labdanum; at other times it's a peppery vetiver/sandalwood combo; often in the far drydown the synthetic citrus notes reappear and make Allure smell incredibly light, snappy, fresh. It's a Rolodex of all the best aspects of '90s masculine perfumery.

This makes flanking Allure Homme utterly unnecessary. Why bother variegating the aesthetic of something that self-variegates? Sure, you can always intensify the citrus, or the tonka, or actually use a full-throated labdanum instead of synthetic test-tube dew, but in the end you wind up with the same thing: redundancy. There's really no reason for it.

Anyway, I've made my point. On to Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme. Jacques Polge is evidently conscious of the usual trappings in formulating a "sport scent," and wisely avoided them, foregoing the usual blinding citrus/Calone/musk accord in favor of a more classical construction. Allure opens with a bright burst of juicy mandarin and lemon, with the vaguest suggestion of grapefruit in the periphery. I swear I smelled this same citrus effect in Bleu de Chanel. There's a minty edge to the fruit, which greens things a bit, and adds to its appeal. After a minute or so, the original Allure Homme steps forward, and I'm in familiar territory. Some of the calibration is different - the tonka has been dosed up, and the allspice has been aerated (perhaps with ginger). Original Allure's satiny sandalwood is eclipsed here by a more dominant evergreen and cedar accord, which irritates me a little because I dislike cedar, and don't want it mixed with other coniferous notes. But the fragrance smells solid, well made, and equal parts refreshing and warming. In a sense, Allure isn't really sporty - just fresh, and intense.

I could see owning a small bottle of this and liking it enough to wear once in a blue moon. I still have a bottle of the original, and haven't worn it nearly as much as I used to. This Allure is great for dates, the workplace, travel situations, and actually seems a tad formal, like its progenitor. In other words, it's versatile. Too bad it's also superfluous. Still, if you're a fan of Chanel's contemporary masculines, I doubt this will disappoint.









5/9/12

Amber Pour Homme (Prada)

As you all know, my favorite soap is Irish Spring, now made by Colgate. So whenever I find masculine fragrances that approximate the smell of Irish Spring, I get excited. There are actually very few fragrances that accurately smell just like Irish Spring, and only a handful that fall in the general ballpark. The only fragrance I've ever encountered that smells exactly like Irish Spring is Sung Homme - and even with Sung, the scent isn't 100% accurate - more like 95%. But it does smell as though someone took the basic soap fragrance, deconstructed it, replaced its components with higher quality aromachemicals, threw in a few extra ingredients for complexity, and then formulaically recomposed the perfume according to Colgate's specs. It's heavenly stuff.

Amber Pour Homme doesn't rate as highly in the Irish Spring doppelganger department, but it's 70% there. It lacks the soap's pungency, and doesn't really mix vetiver and vanilla in the same way, but Amber does generate the same clean, green, soapy buzz. It's a modernized take on this fragrance type (and perhaps not coincidental that this and Sung Homme are roughly the same shade of purple). Anyone who needs a lesson in what "soapy" smells like should try Amber PH. It doesn't get any soapier than this.


One little mystery with Amber PH, something gleaned from reading, is that many people don't smell Irish Spring in it! Yet the same people smell Irish Spring in things like Creed's Green Valley, GIT, Aspen, and Cool Water - four fragrances that are as far from Irish Spring as it gets, in my opinion. Its resemblance to Irish Spring is the only reason I really like Amber PH, and feel it's full-bottle worthy.

If you took the angular soapiness of Sung Homme and smoothed its edges out, bled some of the synthetic green out of it, and amped up the nondescript brightness of bergamot and neroli, you'd have Amber PH. Then you just follow this bright soapiness with a deeper vanilla and myrrh, with hints of saffron, vetiver, and tonka. Common sense says citrus and herbs and green grasses don't work with vanilla, but that's wrong, very wrong, they work beautifully, and without that combination this entire concept goes to pot. It's executed beautifully in the drydown of Amber, with a musky finish that is both soft, warm, and breezy, like summer air through the bathroom window after a shower. The dual warm/cool aspect of this fragrance makes it suitable for any time of year, night or day. It's casual and inoffensive, but playful and sexy, with a sweet freshness that cuts like a knife through sweat and other undesirable odors. Guys, whenever you're in doubt about how you should smell, wear Amber PH. There is absolutely no way you can go wrong with a fragrance that mimics smooth, masculine soap.


As an aside: My only wish is that Colgate would release their "Legendary Classic" body wash in bar form. It smells a touch better than the regular "current" Irish Spring, but I don't like using body wash. When I die and hopefully go to heaven, I'm sure I'll find bars of classic Irish Spring in all the showers. Until then, I guess I'll have to settle for the deodorant. If anyone spots Legendary Classic in bar form, let me know!














5/5/12

Green Valley (Creed)

I always think of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's masterful period piece, whenever I smell Green Valley by Creed. It is easily one of the finest of the masculine Millésimes, a triumph of Ango-French perfumery, and one of the greatest chypres ever made - and then forgotten about. For some reason it often gets compared to Irish Spring soap, but Sung Homme has that market much better cornered; Green Valley is a verdant field of wildflowers and dewy grasses, like those of the Petit Trianon, where Kirsten Dunst's ill-fated character skips and traipses about with her children. This fragrance is the embodiment of all that can possibly be "green" about a perfume, from its cool minty bite on top, to its ginger-laced violet leaf and vetiver heart. This scent is perfection.

Am I the only one who feels this way about it? Hardly - peruse the internet and you'll find many glowing reviews, usually rueful of its commercial demise. The greatest mystery in the modern Millésime lineup is why in God's name Olivier chose to discontinue Green Valley, a fragrance that is arguably much better than Green Irish Tweed, and unarguably more timeless. There have been rumors about its viability in the face of recent IFRA regulations, with some hints that its reliance on oakmoss was excessive by current standards in the EU. I'm not convinced of this. Green Valley has a dab of oakmoss in it, set against a vanillic bergamot/ginger combination, but it's the blackcurrant that lends this scent its prominently bitter greenness, not oakmoss. I simply don't smell that much moss in there. If it was closer in flavor to, say, Grey Flannel, well then I suppose I could cede the point. Alas, there is no such earthiness to be found, but rather a crystalline, grassy greenness, with moorings in breezy fruits and spices.

January's review of EROLFA mentions how you can quiz Creed salesmen on their wares and probably knock them down a few rungs on the attitude ladder. With Green Valley, you can ask a rep why it spoils after a certain period of time, and see him scramble to deny it, and then change the subject. I've owned two bottles of GV in my time, one from the early 2000s, and another from 2006. The older bottle was purchased from a mall kiosk, and although it was definitely genuine, it contained soured juice. The opening was a pretty blackcurrant and ginger medley, followed by the smell of Jesse Owens' sneaker after a 200 meter dash. It smelled rancid hellish. I gave it to a friend who knows nothing about Creed, in the mean-spirited hope that he would think it was how extremely expensive, Anglo-French, green-themed niche perfumes ought to smell. My 2006 bottle of GV smelled just fine, and it helped that I bought it directly from the Creed Boutique in New York City.

Fumeheads have argued extensively about which of Creed's two green Millésimes is better, with most favoring GIT by a hair. There's actually a third green - Original Vetiver - but this is obviously a clone of Mugler Cologne, and not really in contention. With GV and GIT, a question regarding the usage of violet leaf comes into play. GIT's violet leaf is very deep and purple-hued, while GV's is lighter, and more silvery in feel. The violet leaf of GIT is very much an '80s note, full of synthetic bombast, but GV's is more '90s, very ephemeral and sheer. One problem people face with Green Valley is that it's very difficult to sample, now that it's not being made any longer, and it's hard to trust people's written opinions when weighing the purchase of a $285 perfume. Fortunately, you don't have to go by reviews alone - some Saks and Neiman Marcus locations still stock testers of Green Valley. But if you can't find a tester at the nearest of those two stores, is it safe to trust reviews, or better to hold out and base the purchase on what you smell?

Trust your nose only. Wait until you find that tester, sample, and go from there. If you live near a Blue Mercury, try them for a sample. Green Valley is very bitter, and contrasts fresh green notes against an inedible vanilla base. It's the soapiest use of vanilla I've ever encountered in a fragrance, and it's definitely not for everyone. I sometimes wonder if this is why the fragrance is so often compared to Irish Spring soap, as Colgate uses a rather vanillic, lye-type scent in its formula. Aside from those two similarities, these fragrances have nothing in common - Irish Spring is a juniper/vetiver/vanilla, while Green Valley is a mint/grass/blackcurrant/vanilla. The Creed is significantly less "friendly" than any other interpretation of "green" that I've encountered, with very little overt sweetness, and scads of bitter pungency in its "fresh-fruity physiology," as Andrew put it.

N°19, Silences, Vent Vert, Diorissimo, all share a table with Green Valley, yet somehow get talked about a hell of a lot more than the Creed by comparison. I've never understood why, when someone asks for names of great green frags, Green Valley gets short shrift. I kinda-sorta half understand it - there's a negative bias toward Creed for being so popular (niche fragrances aren't supposed to be popular), and so expensive (which is fine with everything but Creed), but still, this scent needs more recognition. Perhaps with renewed appreciation, the Creed family will feel compelled to resurrect their lost masterpiece and stick it back on shelves. I can see it in my mind's eye, with its snappy new pastel-green label and matching cap. As things stand, it's worth seeking out, but definitely sample first, to avoid buying a green that might be too bitter for your tastes, and also to avoid buying something that smells like spoiled garbage.

One more thing about Marie Antoinette: in the film, Kirsten doesn't come into contact with toiletries and personal hygiene products very often, which seems accurate for the time period. However, she expresses an affinity for everything green - in her desire to plant trees, return to nature with her children, and enjoy summer nights, in fields, under the stars, with friends. If I'd been on Ms. Coppola's set, I might have snuck a little 1-ouncer of Green Valley onto Kirsten's copy of the script, as a paperweight, and also a little message suggestive of so much more about her character than any script could give.
















5/2/12

English Leather (Dana)



English Leather is yet another critically neglected masculine fragrance that deserves far more attention than it has ever gotten, and I'm happy to give it a fresh look. I used to have a bottle of vintage MEM Company English Leather, but it's either been misplaced, or disposed of - I haven't seen it in months. The biggest problem with the MEM version was its intensity. When I was a teenager, I came up with a little math joke about it: two dabs + ten minutes = Tylenol squared. It was nice stuff, but just too much for me, and I rarely wore it.

Fast forward to today, and Dana's reformulation. I bought an eight ounce bottle a few hours ago, and it's terrific stuff. No headache material here. It basically smells the same as the original, but with some interesting tweaks. English Leather always smelled more like leather treatment oil than actual leather to me. MEM's juice was very smooth, with a rich citrus opening full of sparkling orange, lemon, and lime. Dana's opens with a sharper lemon and lime, and the orange is completely gone. This makes for a brighter citrus accord, reminiscent of terpenes, maybe even tannins, which transitions nicely into a lab-balanced, lemon-concentrated Jeffrey Pine scent.

The wood note deepens within twenty minutes, becoming redolent of seasoned riding tack. It's stable leather, but unbrushed stable leather, its dry hide smeared with evergreen resins after a trot through the woods. Eventually, English Leather fades away, leaving a hint of dry wood in its wake. The overall effect is very staid, clean, masculine. There's nothing complicated about English Leather, but it doesn't smell like another hackneyed chemical composition. It only boasts four notes, but they're very nicely rendered, and truly evocative of the English countryside. It's a fox hunt in a bottle.

It's easy to dismiss a simple woody fragrance from the '50s as being dated and cheap, especially when it's only $4 an ounce, but English Leather smells of expensive leather, and leather is timeless. Like Pino Silvestre, English Leather is the definition of truth in advertising, and getting what you paid for. In this case, the name and the scent say it all, and you get much, much more than you paid for.













5/1/12

Royall Bay Rhum (Royall Lyme Bermuda)

Royall is a terrific throwback brand, founded in 1957 by an accomplished yachtsman named Anthony J. Gaade. His first fragrance was Royall Lyme, an island formula that was surprisingly complex in its day, and which saw American success after its introduction with Brooks Brothers in 1960. Since then there have been several more fragrances, most in an EDC concentration, and all successful with men and women who appreciate clean, crisp scents.

One of the things I like about Royall is that their fragrances smell very naturalistic. There aren't any overwhelming chemical smells baked into the compositions. In fact, these fragrances tend to smell like real infusions of well-composed raw ingredients, a trait commonly found in only the most expensive niche fare. Royall is in fact a niche brand, although their low price point precludes them from enjoying the usual fanfare that surrounds fancy niche stuff. Like Fragrances of Ireland, the philosophy backing Royall is one of universality and inclusiveness, with a laid back, come-as-you-are feeling to the advertising and the fragrances themselves.

Bay Rhum is a very simple scent, and draws on the classic Bay Rhum formula that was so popular back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It opens with a pleasant burst of grassiness, very dark green and fresh, and within thirty seconds moves into a spicy melange of clove, pepper, and bay leaf. The clove is prominent and darkens the scent's green flavor significantly, but also adds freshness. After an hour, the fragrance has dried down to a spare clove and bay skin scent, with a hint of the brighter greens still slouching by the exit. The whole affair is simple, crisp, warm, and masculine - but because it smells so natural, it wouldn't be out of place on a woman's skin at all. This is excellent stuff, quite inexpensive, and worth looking into as a summer splash. Two thumbs up, and this is from a guy who doesn't even like bay rum!