7/30/12

Aqva Pour Homme (Bvlgari)



Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme. Never mind what Tania Sanchez said about it. Never mind what anyone else says about it. To any and all of my loyal "newbie" readers, those who take my reviews seriously, and actually take stock of what I say, I'd like to impart this little bit of wisdom to you: Aqva is a sporty aquatic the way sporty aquatics should be done. If you think you hate aquatics, think you hate sports fragrances, think you hate hearing the words "fresh" and "clean" in the same sentence as "masculine scent," I think you should head over to the mall right now and ask for a spritz of this stuff. You'll find that a slew of reviews on this fragrance are totally misleading, and that a slew of reviewers have missed the boat on Aqva. No pun intended.

The truth about Bvlgari's signature aquatic masculine is that it's actually an aquatic white floral, with a raunchy arrangement of well-handled indoles comprising its heart. In regards to its review in The Guide, I suspect Ms. Sanchez sprayed some Aqva on her wrist, gave it an immediate sniff, wrinkled her nose at the non-existent ozonic-melon top notes, shook her head, and started typing. This scent has a truly uninspired opening, more a condensation of core elements, rather than a unique accord. I can almost understand stopping short at that stiff intro before heading for the scrub brush. Almost.


What happens two minutes later is what makes Aqva worthwhile. A delightfully skanky orange blossom and jasmine accord surfaces, all sweetness clipped away, bringing an almost-fecal indolic breath to the fore. Jacques Cavallier's careful integration of salinated green notes and bracing citruses keeps the stink at bay, balancing the heart perfectly, and sending its character into the stratosphere of inspired workmanship. For three hours on skin, Aqva is a careful tension between these earthy and salty elements, and smells like a briny sea breeze, and also like a dying bouquet. The indoles eventually calm down, and the far drydown makes way for a pleasant mist of remote fruit and cool white flowers, somewhat more polite, but still hinting at their past glory.

If this is a bare, wan, uninspired sporty aquatic, then I'm Micky Mouse.


















7/29/12

Eau de Gentiane Blanche (Hermès)


Jean-Claude Ellena is well-known for his minimalist style in perfumery, and he deserves high praise for sticking to it. I can't think of many perfumers who do more with less as stoically as Ellena. The man manages to capture the essence of nature in bare strokes of uniform color, designing "personal atmosphere" for his wearers. I can appreciate that.

Eau de Gentiane Blanche is one of Hermès' more unique releases, as it prominently features the gentiana plant, and you'd be hard-pressed to find other colognes featuring gentiana. It reminds me of the Italian bitters used in summer drinks, and possesses a cool earthiness that's at once linear and utterly marvelous. It stands in stark contrast to the bright fruit of Eau d'Orange Verte, but also seems appropriately placed alongside it, as they share the sugarless greenness of things from nature. Eau de Gentiane Blanche smells very "white" as well, with a pale, ashen character that makes me think of Ireland in winter. It opens with a bright green freshness, very clean and smooth, and dries into a somber floral woodiness, which resembles iris. Things get powdery from here, and a little one-dimensional, but the overall earthy aspect retains its allure for a solid three hours after application. Impressive.

The one strike against EdGB is its quality of materials. I'm not detecting the same eyebrow-raising naturals of Eau d'Orange Verte in this composition, and this is underscored by the suspicious longevity. For an eau de cologne, it sure has kick. Because it is the only gentiana-based fragrance I've encountered, I can't speak to the authenticity of that note, but I definitely get some synthetic iris and musk. Try this one out if you're in the market for something different. It's unique, well made, and guaranteed to get attention. Me? I'm sticking to Eau d'Orange Verte, 4711, Eau Sauvage, and things that don't smell strange and funereal. But that's just me we're talking about.





















Eau d'Orange Verte (Hermès)


I will try to write an objective review of this famous cologne by Hermès, because in comparison to others, like Eau Sauvage, 4711, Orange Spice, I think it is the least fruity, and most lackluster of the bunch. However, on its own merits, it's very good.

Eau d'Orange Verte opens with a bright lemon and orange accord, smelling juicy and fresh, and which rapidly recedes behind a solidly bitter bergamot. Very quickly thereafter a woody note takes over, softened by a pleasantly naturalistic orange blossom. The floral element plays second fiddle to an overwhelming woodiness, and at the twenty minute mark I'm struggling to find the citrus notes of the opening. With heat-activating breath on skin, the orange is drawn out, but never really retains the lucidity of the Bitter Orange in Eau Sauvage, or the synthetic Technicolor Valencia of Orange Spice. Its cologne concentration works against any legibility Eau d'Orange Verte may have, and forces a spare-green woodiness into the spotlight for the remainder of its short life.

Still, it's very well-made, and arguably the most naturalistic orange cologne on the market. There is no denying that it's stylistically mature, and it's definitely light and refreshing. I'm in a relationship with a Japanese woman - light, refreshing, short-lived naturalism is my future. But I foresee days where the Mrs. wrinkles her nose and says, "You're wearing that Creed again, aren't you?", or embraces me and sighs, "I'm getting you more Eau Sauvage for Christmas." With Eau d'Orange Verte, a surprised "You're wearing cologne?" is all I anticipate. (Read: I'll be buying a bottle.)

















7/27/12

Weekend for Men (Burberry)



It's always hard when I test a fragrance that closely resembles another fragrance, especially when the tested doppelgänger isn't as good as its progenitor. Even if both fragrances are of equal caliber, there's still the unavoidable question: why not just wear the original?

The House of Burberry is the odd man out in masculine fragrance, a third wheel in the commercial hemisphere of Chanel and Armani. There are many Burberry fans, and the scents seem to do considerably better than some of their competition, but in the end their offerings feel mediocre, aspirational, uninspired. Burberry for Men is nice enough, but I'd never buy a bottle for myself. There's nothing wrong with it, but its violet leaf-to-cedar overtures get no awards for ingenuity. It's impossible to say whether or not BfM is a clone of something better, because its thematic components are so pedestrian. It shares shelf space with hundreds of others like it.

Weekend for Men is another story. This is Brut, more or less, with the original Calone molecule added, two or three extra citrus fruits, and a white musky veil thrown over everything. The top is bright and fizzy, and then a grandiloquent haze of white musk, jasmine, lavender, and a sprig of mint appear in the drydown. It's far too muted to be memorable, and isn't nearly as enjoyable as that famous ambery fougère from 1964. Skip this and just wear Brut.


















7/26/12

Design for Men (Paul Sebastian)



Paul Sebastian's brand
has been experiencing a Renaissance lately. PS Fine Cologne used to be relegated to the discount bin at Marshalls, usually priced at around $10 - $15 for a large bottle. Last winter I stopped by Macy's and was surprised to find PS sitting next to Chanel and Armani. It was given a high-profile display, with several gift-sets, and hulking 8-ounce testers thoughtfully arranged on the glass counter. In fact, Macy's is currently asking $53 for a 4-ouncer of the stuff. I've noticed this scent is no longer available at my local Marshalls. I haven't tried it recently, and wonder if it's been reformulated - i.e., improved. For Macy's prices, it had better be.

Inexpensive classics like Azzaro Pour Homme, and re-released classics like Red for Men, are suffering lately from a sulfurous off-note, the likes of which I cannot identify or explain. The latest formulation of ApH has it in spades, fizzing unpleasantly from its softly aldehydic opening. Red for Men has it deeply embedded in its heart, which ruins the scent completely. And Design for Men seems to be built around it. The whole scent is a stale, ammonia-like funk, sandwiched between a synthetic grapefruit top, and a pallid lavender/muguet base. Things decline further in the far drydown, and are reminiscent of the days when angry mothers washed their sons' profanity-stained mouths out with soap. Think of Design for Men as that experience, unceremoniously presented in a 45-cent bottle with a disproportionately large cap.




















7/25/12

Bijan Men (Bijan)



I once posted my C.V. online and received an immediate reply from a man who claimed I fit the profile for an available position, and if I didn't mind the drive from Connecticut to White Plains, NY, he'd be willing to interview me tomorrow. I asked him what the position was, and he was very vague about it, saying "It's an integral role in our in-house marketing department, which is focused on giving our business the broadest visibility possible." I figured, what do I have to lose? So I went down there the next day, waited for an hour in the lobby, and was finally greeted by a 30-something cheeseball in a plaid suit. He led me through a surrealistic maze of windowless corridors, along which was situated his unfurnished office. He invited me to sit, so I sat. The first words out of his mouth were, "Are those your references?" To which I replied, "Actually, no. This is my portfolio. You do realize I'm a graphic design grad, right?"

His face went blank. Without another word, he stood up, opened his door, and ushered me out. He wished me good luck, spun on his spit-and-polished shoes, and disappeared back into his office. True story.

Having smelled the contents of this obnoxious glass donut, I'm now positive the company he fronted was whatever haphazard concern is responsible for Bijan Men.

















7/24/12

Red Roses (Jo Malone)




Floral gender designations, loosely defined by me:

Feminine
Tuberose
Jasmine
Violet
Rose
Gardenia
Orange Blossom
Iris
Peony
Carnation
Geranium


Masculine
Lavender
Rose
Iris
Violet
Orange Blossom
Carnation
Geranium


This is the sort of floral gender orthodoxy I subscribe to, but I truly do believe that people should have the right, regardless of gender, to wear whatever they like. So if you're a guy who loves gardenia, go for it. I understand Tom Ford makes a good one. Likewise for women and lavender, although with the exception of a few fragrances from the 1970s, I haven't run across a lavender that "works" in feminine compositions. I'm not sure what it is about lavender, but I always associate it with masculinity. I'm sure there are 500 feminines with prominent lavender that are right under my nose, but unless I get around to trying them, I'll probably never know what they are. Yet another of my many horizons that requires expanding.

Rose also works just fine on men, as long as it isn't sugared and bedecked in berries and tropical fruits. Hearkening back to the British dandified fougères and orientals of the 1800s (Hammam Bouquet immediately springs to mind), rose has had a significant presence in masculines throughout history, and continues to appear in contemporary masculine fragrances. One of the finest affordable rose fragrances for men is Zino by Davidoff, but rose-based masculines also include classics like Ungaro Pour L'Homme III, Black Aoud, Égoïste, Une Rose, and Casual for Men by Paul Sebastian. Gentlemen prefer their stems with thorns.


Red Roses brings to mind Tea Rose and Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare in that it's a very holistic interpretation of the flower. Soliflores that render the greens along with the blush pinks and blood reds are more dynamic than those that simply take rose oils and fizzy headspace technologies to recreate this unique aroma. I prefer the fragrances that include notes of leaves, stems, semi-decayed petals, and unopened buds, and Red Roses has a little bit of everything. It opens with a fresh green note, very pastel in feel, but quickly envelopes my senses in its ruby glow. For five hours I'm immersed in a bed of roses, with whiffs of stems and leaves, the faintest hint of dank dying petals, and the sweet, honey-like pluck of new flowers (a little like Rose Barbare in this regard).

If you like Tea Rose, and find Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare a little to citric and unfriendly, you must try Red Roses. It really doesn't get any better than this.

















7/23/12

Derek Jeter Driven & Driven Black (Avon)




A few years ago, Avon released Derek Jeter's celebuscent, cleverly named "Driven," which I did not have an opportunity to try, because at that time I was preoccupied with finding a job. Now that I'm comfortably working, I can peruse the many subtle pleasantries this fragrance has to offer - thanks to its re-release! For reasons unknown, Avon discontinued Driven, and this must have been an unpopular move, because not only is it back, but it's back in black.

Just a quick note on Avon: Do not underestimate this company. Remember those silly plastic statuettes from the sixties and seventies, every conceivable shape and size, filled with some cheap aftershave or cologne? Those days are but fond memories. They now have serious fragrance campaigns, with several older brands represented, and some good new ones on the roster. Driven is one of them.


Jeter has publicly admitted to liking and wearing Cool Water. He has hinted that Driven is Cool Water with a few curve-balls thrown in. I agree - Driven is essentially Cool Water with two fruit notes, namely melon and grapefruit, traded in for tobacco, apple, and cedar. It opens with a bright punch of lavender and citrus, with a little melon sweetness, and gradually moves into a minty bitterness that I can't quite describe. I've read notes lists that cite rhubarb and bamboo, but it just smells very "blue" to me. It's like they created a new and overly-abstract interpretation of lavender.

Just as I begin to feel Driven is too smooth, ozonic, modern, something good happens. The fruity blues back off, and a darker sueded leather accord emerges. This is another adjustment to the Cool Water formula, as the Davidoff scent contains a wily tobacco and cedar element that flirts with darkness to balance its freshness. Driven merely says "leather" instead of "chew." Good play. Unambitious, but commendable. If you're a fan of Cool Water, but want to try something that's stylistically more contemporary (without sacrificing quality), give Driven a few innings and see what you think. You're getting tired of all my little baseball jokes, I know. This is almost over.


Driven Black is a bit of a mystery to me. I'm anosmic to it. I get hints of it - mandarin, sage, some cedar and sandalwood. Then, a big suede note, which seems to be the bulk of things. It flits in and out, but more out, unfortunately. I like what I smell, when I'm able to smell it. But this is the only fragrance I've encountered that genuinely seems much, much too weak. Either that, or my nose just doesn't want to play ball.













7/22/12

Vetyver (L'Occitane)



Vetiver has always been a problematic note for me. It's not that I don't like how it smells, because I do. There's something wonderful about its rooty-green goodness, and the way it compliments a man's presence. By all rights, I should love vetiver, for I've found it loves me.

However, there's one serious snag - vetiver is boring. There, I said it. Despite its charms, vetiver comes across as a bit one-dimensional, and lacks dynamism, intrigue, exoticism, whatever you want to call it. To my nose, an exciting vetiver fragrance has yet to be made. Too many perfume houses rely on vetiver alone to carry their in-house vetiver scent, and wind up with a stodgy product. Guerlain Vetiver is beautiful, in many ways the perfect masculine fragrance. But I'd sooner wear Jacomo's Silences, or anything with more complexity and pizzazz. That's just me.


Creed's Original Vetiver is a beautiful fragrance, and it's one of my top ten of all time. But that's because it's a beautiful green composition. The very reason Luca Turin slams it is the reason I love it: it's an example of excellent perfumery, that design sensibility of arranging olfactory components in a manner that creates a whole new accord, a truly unique experience that isn't easily replicated or improved upon. A lot of work went into integrating the vetiver, and making it crucial to the scent's success. Even more work went into ensuring that vetiver wasn't the star of the show. Those of us who "get it" can appreciate Original Vetiver. Those who don't can wear Guerlain's instead.


L'Occitane's take on vetiver is somewhat of an anomaly to me. It's a vetiver fragrance that truly has no vetiver in it. It's a sleight of hand trick, a well-placed aroma chemical in measured proportions to some other sly notes. And it rubs me the wrong way from start to finish.

I'd like to impart this about Vetyver - it's a good fragrance for Christmas time, as its smooth smell conjures the holidays, Christmas, New Years, anything from late November onward. It has that warm, spicy, homey feel to it. It opens with a brilliant desiccated lemon, rosemary, and sage accord, and rapidly transitions into a deep nutmeg and cedar, with strong rosewoody overtures. I like the smell of rosewood, and enjoy how this olfactory illusion plays out in Vetyver. Underlying all of these things is a vetiver-like woodiness, very well centered and obvious, but not overpowering.


As it dries down, Vetyver becomes very dry and smoky, with a subtle tobacco-like effect, although I'm sure there's no actual tobacco in there. Vetiver steps forward and attempts to claim its territory, but nuthin' doin' since this ain't no vetiver fragrance to begin with. No, this is just an aroma chemical, namely Hexyl Benzoate, shown above. HB imbues perfumes with a dry, rooty, woody-green balsamic feeling that could easily be mistaken for vetiver, if used in the right context. Vetyver is nice, easy to live with, and well made given its provenance, but simply misses the mark for me. Very subjective call. I could see others loving Vetyver, and could understand why. Maybe in a few months when I'm roasting chestnuts I'll have a change of heart.




















What To Do About Reformulations




Your favorite fragrances are being reformulated. What do you do? Panic. Dial 911. Throw all your expendables out the fire escape and take only cash, canned food, and pictures of your loved ones. Get down on your knees and pray.

Kidding, kidding. Nah, don't do any of those things.

Occasionally I get concerned comments about reformulations, which fragrance to trust, which variation in packaging to look out for, etc. A few months ago, I wrote a post about reformulations, specifically two of my favorite fragrances: Grey Flannel, and Kouros. I lamented that these masterpieces had been messed with, although despite my certainty that something had changed, I was hard-pressed to identify what, exactly, it was. With Grey Flannel, it seemed like there was less oakmoss, less violet, more anise. With Kouros, there seemed to be a thinner citrus and civet intro, followed by a slightly muted drydown of clove and incense, sans honey and wildflowers. I wasn't a happy customer.

Then I did side-by-side sniff comparisons of my older bottles against the new. In the case of Grey Flannel, it was apparent to me that there was only a very, very subtle difference. The violet leaf had been toned up, and the actual violet ionone toned down. This resulted in a more peppery, anise-like top for the new version, which contrasted just a little with the smoother, mossier top of old.

In the case of Kouros, lengthy wearings helped me discern what happened. Recently I wore my older formula for a full day, in relatively high heat. Its bright citrus/musk top notes carried predictably into the heart, where a nice melange of honeyed wildflowers (and lots of lavender) opened up, creating a beautiful sweetness. The incense base was solid, upholding the perfume for an appreciable time. The new version of Kouros, however, is toned back on all fronts, and in fact the concentration has been altered slightly - it is now two steps closer to being an eau de cologne, instead of a standard EDT. There is more water, as noted in the ingredients list, instead of perfumer's alcohol.

Still, the new Kouros performs the same. There's a lighter citrus/musk opening, a lighter wildflower accord, a lighter incense in the base. The same beautiful sweetness chimes in every now and then to remind me that I'm wearing a masterpiece.

We all know that reformulations happen, and that sometimes this changes the quality of a fragrance for the worse. On basenotes, and on Fragrantica, we read all the time that it's not worth wearing Paco Rabanne Pour Homme unless you can find a bottle from the late '80s or early '90s, before the latest round of cost-cuts trimmed the life out of it. Quorum gets accused of being a pale sliver of its former self, due to reckless changes in how oakmoss gets dosed. I've even read that 4711, which is a fairly simple EdC consisting primarily of citrus aromachemicals, was gutted some time back, and now masquerades as itself. If true, it's all a damn shame.

Let's get something straight here. Sometimes fragrances do get ruined. I haven't said anything about it, because I didn't want to shit on the venerable house of Azzaro, which I like and admire greatly. But their most recent reformulation of Azzaro Pour Homme - which follows my review of it - is a shambles. They have taken the idea of "modernization" too far, and made what was once a terrific French fougère into a ghastly watery thing that smells like someone dropped an Azzaro Pour Homme tablet in an eight-gallon jug of New England tap. This is an example of a reformulation failure, and if you really must know, I can't recommend buying the recent crop of ApH until they change it back. They had already turned it into a sports fragrance, which I didn't mind and actually liked, but then they took it a step too far, and now you'd be better off wearing Stetson by Coty. And no one is better off wearing Stetson by Coty. No one.

But in the interest of "Getting Things Straight," let me add that Azzaro Pour Homme is a rare case. Grey Flannel was reformulated. Several times. It still smells like Grey Flannel. Nothing has changed to the extent that it smells like some shadow of itself. Kouros has been under the knife a few times also, and it still smells like Kouros. Quorum - which I have had batch variation issues with in the past - still smells like Quorum, and although I'd appreciate it if they improved its grapefruit note, I'm totally comfortable saying that nothing has changed. These fragrances have stood their ground, and are worth re-purchasing. And so have other fragrances, and they're worth re-purchasing, too.

My friend Shamu1, whose excellent blog I have been reading for a while now, recently made an excellent point about reformulations. It's something that shouldn't be overlooked, because it is very true: when fragrances age in the bottle, various solvent ingredients evaporate through whatever tiny cracks and fissures exist in their bottles. Stuff like alcohol and water. It happens very slowly, very gradually, and sometimes almost imperceptibly. The result is that the perfume oils, the raw materials that make the fragrance tick, become a little more concentrated, and seem to intensify. That 10 year-old bottle of Paco Rabanne Pour Homme probably smells a little better than the one you bought a month ago. That's because your older Paco is holding a bit less water, and a bit of a congealed formula. Its essence is more concentrated by a mere fraction, enough for your nose to detect. It smells better, because there's less "filler" between your nose and the stuff that makes Paco the amazing masculine perfume that it is. Meanwhile, your new bottle has all that filler still in it, still buffering the air, holding the perfume at bay. It's present, but it's polite. Maybe even a little hollow, compared to the old stuff. That's normal. That's nothing to get crazy over.

I know that my new bottle of Kouros has been reformulated because I see that they've re-allocated the position of water in the ingredients list. But almost every other ingredient is the same. And the only difference is that there's a little more alcohol in my older bottle. My older bottle may be about 8 or 9 years old. Could be a little older. It smells a little stronger, denser. There's not as much buffer between the fragrance and my nose, so I'm getting the full brunt of synthetic civet and bergamot when I first spray it on. Which is nice.

Should I be peeved that they put more water in the new version? Yes and no. It makes it a little harder to smell Kouros right now. But water evaporates. Ten years from now, I may have my old Kouros back. So what's the point of getting all upset over it? There is none.

Basenotes and Fragrantica are full to the brim with threads regarding reformulation. Packaging changes. Batch numbers. You name it, it's there. It's a fool's game. Don't listen to the guy who tries to send you on a mission to find a bottle of Kouros from 1983. When you place the winning bid on Ebay, you're going to receive a perfume that smells old. The citrus notes will have soured, and the civet - some of which may have been real back then - will be off-balance. The floral notes will have peeled and become powdery before their time. The incense base, which is supposed to smell raw, will instead seem burnt. And what can you tell people on the internet then? That you shouldn't have paid $100 for an old bottle of Kouros, because the original formula hasn't survived the decades? That it would have been easier and cheaper to just go to the mall and grab a bottle of the new stuff? That despite all your attempts to pass the skunked juice off as "beautiful," and "one-of-a-kind," none of your friends are buying it?

Or will you go back on basenotes, or Fragrantica, and tell the new kids on the block that it's not worth buying Kouros unless they find its original formula? That won't make you feel better about all the original formulas you bought, wore, and regretted.

Life is full of change. Acceptance of change is part of life. Don't get hung up on the past. Move forward always.



























7/21/12

Eau de Cologne Imperiale (Guerlain)




I know I already reviewed a Guerlain this month, but July is long in the tooth, and August, which is generally the hottest month of the year in these parts, is right around the corner. Those of you who are seeking a beautifully-made EDC for sweaty mid-summer afternoons should look no further than Eau de Cologne Imperiale. Mind you, this is the "affordable" EDC from Guerlain - actually one of a few - and if you have a well lubricated bank account, by all means spring for the pricier Eau de Guerlain instead. It's a bit harder to source, though. I'm not so sure it's worth the trouble. I've never had the chance to try it, but I understand EdG is the best of Guerlain's colognes.

EdCI, however, seems to be ranked second, and I can see why. With the exception of Shalimar, I have yet to encounter another citrus accord as good as the one in this cologne. Most EDCs boast a broad array of citrus notes, with lemon, lime, bergamot, bitter orange, and sometimes grapefruit present and accounted for. 4711 is a good example of this - it has a very nice bitter citrus opening, and although its note separation isn't top shelf, I can make out lemon, bergamot, and lime. Legible enough, but after three minutes they meld into one thing, and get overtaken by herbal and floral notes.


Guerlain has a knack for using citrus aromachemicals that are crystalline, easy to identify, well-blended, and smooth. EdCI opens with a lovely rush of bright, bitter, truly naturalistic citrus. The lemons, the limes, the oranges, all come tumbling out onto skin in a wet splash, like one of those visually-dishonest chain restaurant commercials with slices of food and water droplets flying everywhere. There are some prickly herbs: a touch of rosemary, the quietest hint of basil, accents of neroli, and a nondescript aromatic wood, probably cedar.

Spray on. Let ten minutes pass. Enjoy this sparkly citrus-herbal wonder. Revel in it. Then say goodbye. Longevity is roughly fifteen minutes with reasonable application. Which, in a way, is good. It supports the supposition that high-grade naturals are used in this fragrance. For citrus lovers, those who require a light, noncommittal fragrance in close quarters with others, or just people who want a little lift in the middle of a heat wave, this juice is for you.









7/19/12

Light Blue (Dolce&Gabbana)



Question: Why do banal fragrances have attractive advertisements?

Answer: Because their makers spend lots of money to advertise them.

As opposed to an air of, "we prefer to let word of mouth between friends and those in-the-know advertise for us," which surrounds many niche brands. Which, in and of itself, is no bad thing at all.


You're probably thinking, "Oh great, another review of Light Blue by D&G. Just what we need." Well, do a little blogosphere search and see how many reviews of Light Blue you come up with. You'll find it's a victim of its own success, a well-regarded scent that has enjoyed the dubious honor of being immensely popular, completely unisex, and consistently in demand, which makes it a pariah among the "fragrance elite." No one feels the need to review it because no one wants to stoop that low. Allow me to kindly do the stooping.

In but a few words, Light Blue is the epitome of perfume banality. So much so, that having a masculine version of it is superfluous, redundant, pointless, etc. If this is your shtick, just man up and wear the lady's version. I assure you, it doesn't smell "girlish." But it lacks originality, its intent is dead obvious, and its effect on the nose and spirit is lackluster. Unless you love the smell of lemon. And cedar. And musky floral notes of no discernible heritage, and zero density. There's a touch of apple, which balances the tartness of the lemon and woods, and prevents Light Blue from becoming Transparent Blue. If you enjoy the smell of lemon and aromatic woods, then you may find a lot to love here.

I find the fragrance uplifting and rather simple, which makes it ideal for a dreary summer day of scorching heat and humidity. If you stick a bottle of this in your fridge and apply it intermittently throughout the day, it will surely refresh you. It smells in some ways like a modern eau de cologne, replete with citrus, woods, and a good synthetic musk. It smells delightful; it would be disingenuous of me to say it smells bad. The citrus does turn a bit "grey" in the far drydown, and may sour if the application is overly heavy. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Light Blue is ultra-light, and therefore requires a heavy hand in application. It's still a solid EDT, with surprising longevity, so don't overdo it, and that sour citrus effect will be held at bay.

As for artistic merit, well, I don't know what to tell you. If you're in this for an abstract experience, you should confine your expectations to the realm of Instant Gratification. Light Blue satisfies on an immediate level, smelling playful, but not deep. It surprises me a little that they haven't released a flanker named Deep Blue to appeal to intellectual aquatic lovers, but then again the venerable house of Jacomo beat them to it.


About the advertising - I love it. It's cheesy, it's unoriginal, it's technically awful, awful stuff. But I can relate to awfulness. I've been to Capri, and it was one of the most beautiful locations I've ever had the pleasure to visit. The Green Grotto, White Grotto, and Blue Grotto were gorgeous. Actually, I didn't have the opportunity to go into the famous Blue Grotto because I couldn't abandon my rented skiff, but I did wander close enough to peek in, and caught a glimpse of its trademark iridescent indiglow. Most of my time was spent floating in the emerald shade of the Green Grotto, wondering if being there would transform me into some hunky Mediterranean guy. No such luck. Next time I'm in Capri, I'll spritz myself with Light Blue, close my salt-spray encrusted eyes, and successfully envision what rock band Stereomud calls the "Perfect Self."














7/18/12

Ralph (Ralph Lauren)




My apologies for referencing The Guide so frequently lately, but it's the natural result of having finally taken the time to read it all the way through. There are some pivotal talking points in there that I either agree with, or can relate to, and I'd like to apply them to my own experiences with fragrances. One of the ideas that Luca Turin posited was that feminine perfumes change, with time and reformulation, into masculines. That's an interesting notion. I partially agree, and partially disagree, but I'm entirely on board with it as a plausible theory that deserves investigation.

The problem with Turin's analysis is that he couches it in essays about perfumes that could have been masculines during their heyday. Time and reformulations are beside the point when discussing massive florals and chypres like Joy, Mitsouko, Arpège. These fragrances had, in their youth, the same boldness and heaviness that they possess today. Men were not culturally inclined to smell of flowers back then, unless those flowers were lavender, geranium, maybe carnation. But it's not such a leap to imagine a heterosexual city boy, a dandy, wearing Mitsouko in the 1940s. I could see that happening without stretching credibility. And The Great Gatsby could have easily worn Joy. This idea that they're more masculine now, as opposed to then, seems to be based on a false premise: contemporary masculine perfumery is aligned with current formulas of old feminine classics.

However, I think it gains traction when applied to more recent perfumes. The fragrances of the late 1990s and early 2000s were often eclectic, strange, sometimes wildly misguided and mis-marketed. Don't believe me? Guys, give the feminine flanker for Cool Water a day of your time. Go ahead, it won't kill you. You'll be surprised by how incredibly unisex it smells. Yes, there are some fruity-floral elements, but they're behind a flowing wall of coolness, like viewing a matronly gift basket through a waterfall. That aquatic aspect neutralizes any perceptible girlishness. What was staunchly feminine then is surprisingly unisex now.
Ralph Lauren's 2000 feminine fruity-floral, comically named "Ralph," is another good example of this gender trick. Ralph is a simple little fragrance, built on a single accord of green apple, chemical freesia, and a little nuance of peach. It's very sweet, and what I mostly smell is an apple note. Apples figure into postmodern fresh fougères, like Cool Water and Aspen, but in a very slight, peripheral manner, and are never the center of attention. Ralph nods to this aspect of masculine fragrance, borrows it, and inflates it into a nuclear mushroom-cloud fruit note. This is no ordinary apple. It's big, it's bright, it's loud, it's neon-green. I should by all rights hate it. I do not.

Why does it work on me? Why can I see myself wearing something so utterly "girlish" and banal? Because in all actuality it doesn't smell very feminine, nor very banal, but rather refreshing, pleasant, very happy, and with such a dominant apple note, unique. One of my quibbles with classics of masculine perfumery is that they tend to sway toward the grim end of the spectrum. Things like Drakkar Noir, Quorum, Polo, are very dark, ominous, full of foreboding pines and tobaccos and the essence of something being repressed. They're perfect for the quiet desperation of modern man, but they're also a bit "Eau de Bolshevik." You can rock Polo and Grey Flannel all you want, and smell incredible wearing them, but if you're the kind of guy who watches The Three Stooges, you might feel a little dissonant, and others could justifiably perceive you that way.


It behooves today's men to beware of smelling overly serious. This is hard to manage when current masculines trend so far into Angel territory, full of sweet gourmand notes and heady musks. There are several thousand guys who could do without their Le Mâle flankers, and try Quorum instead. But at the same time, a man could get lost in the woods, literally and figuratively, and go overboard with sugarless chypres and fougères of yesteryear. It's not such a bad thing for a man to smell sweet, fresh, light-hearted. This is possible to do without "sprouting a ruffled apron."

If you're a man who is interested in something that doesn't take itself too seriously - and you don't take yourself too seriously - give Ralph a try. Its delightful little apple and fresh-floral construction is just what the undertaker ordered.











7/15/12

Chrome (Azzaro)



One of my chief annoyances with The Guide is its Four-Star review of Nautica Voyage, because it's an awful fragrance. That Turin also addresses Azzaro's far-superior (and still terrible) Chrome with One Star adds to my ire, and fleshes out the theory that The Guide is troubled by a number of hypocritical biases that nullify its overall effectiveness as a road map to perfume. Chrome is the progenitor of Voyage in every manner, possessing the same "fresh," semi-aquatic '90s masculine scent profile. To anyone who isn't a fragrance fanatic, the only perceptible difference between these two is that Chrome is a conceptual metallic sport scent, while Voyage is a pretentiously abstract "floral-aquatic" with no concept beyond smelling chemical and harsh.

To say that Chrome is inferior to Voyage is like saying Peugeot is inferior to Ford. Some may see significant differences in quality, and have a distinct preference, but in the end you're still getting the second-largest fragrance type, from either of two major countries, that today's male reaches for before hitting the nightclub circuit. The premiere fragrance type is the dreaded aquatic, and I'm unfamiliar with many of those. I wish I was unfamiliar with Chrome, but I'm not that lucky.

Chrome smells like freshly-washed sheets of stainless-steel plating. The sort of thing you see on the sides of factories and on roofs of airplane hangars. Close your eyes, and imagine yourself sniffing a piece of steel that was just vigorously scrubbed with a fruity shampoo, like anything by Garnier Fructis. There's a shrill citrus top note, reminiscent of a cold sheen of metal, followed by a vague suggestion of watery sweetness, replete with fructose molecules and broken simple sugar proteins. It's immediately repulsive, and I recoil at the thought of it, let alone the smell.















7/14/12

One Man Show (Jacques Bogart)



In 1996, Azzaro released Chrome, its landmark '90s masculine, and took the Cool Water concept one crucial step away from fougère-dom, and into the territory of conceptual perfumery. The concept was "metal." Chrome exhibited all the typical characteristics of a fresh fougère and citrus chypre, married them, amplified its perpendicular musks to blaring levels, and voilà! A shiny metallic perfume that made teenagers and twenty-somethings smell like R2D2. Mission accomplished.

The only precedent for such a horrendous concept (and fragrance) is an obscure niche release from 1980 named One Man Show. Jacques Bogart, on the heels of its successful Bogart Pour Homme, which is an ambery fougère in the Zino/Rabanne axis, attempted to modernize the flagging genre of masculine chypres, and envisioned a world where men smelled of rusty metal, tree resins, and raw incense. It was to be the ultimate meeting of declined Utopia and vengeful nature, all in one powerful scent. The calibration was inspired but simple, of equal parts pine and oakmoss, styrax and patchouli, incense and geranium, all tuned to a hi-pitched shrill. It smells weirdly majestic, with nosehair-singeing pine top notes concentrated into unrecognizable proportions, and redolent of tarnished aluminum sheeting and rusted steel plates. This lengthy opening stage is unremittingly caustic and synthetic, yet also irresistible and quite compelling.

The drydown consists of a simple incense and cedar accord, and possesses a distinctive austerity seldom seen in '80s masculines. It is here, around the ninety-minute mark, that One Man Show clearly reveals itself to be a polite EDT after all, and not a hairy-chested powerhouse. The growl in its beginnings rumbles down to the relaxing patter of vetiver leaves rustling in a twilight breeze. Only hints of the cold metallic note remain as nature reclaims its territory. This fragrance is odd, charming, and full of well-executed synthetic forms. You may or may not smell the resemblance to Chrome, but you'll definitely appreciate an unusual and well-made fragrance while wearing One Man Show. On another note - I have no idea why it was given such a tacky name, but I like how it provides garish contrast to the otherwise-sobering Eastern-European package of muted greys and blacks. Someone over at the Jacques Bogart company has an interesting sense of humor.










7/12/12

Green Irish Tweed Soap (Creed) & Some Thoughts On Grey Flannel



I'm not going to labor on with my review of Green Irish Tweed soap by Creed. All you need to know is that the fragrance of the soap is identical to the drydown of GIT. However, you won't get any of that fizzy lemon-verbena goodness of the perfume version's top notes. That's the nature of matching soaps to perfumes, I guess. You lose almost half the fragrance, but if the half that remains is faithful, no one minds all that much, or even notices. This soap is strikingly identical to the perfume, and any GIT lover will be satisfied with its fragrance. The bar has a rich lather, a pleasant triple-milled density, and a good size and weight. It's actually the equivalent of having two regular grocery store bars all in one soap. Still very expensive, but you get some bang for your buck.

As I type this, I have GIT on one wrist, and Grey Flannel on the other, with a touch of Aspen by Coty also within nose-reach. I've long contended that Grey Flannel has survived the decades, even as it approaches the "grey" age of 40, without losing its luster. Some may disagree with me on this, but even the slightly-tweaked newest version retains enough of the fragrance's classic elements to warrant an A- grade. The older version in the 2 ounce splash bottle is a solid A+. I'm not a huge fan of how they've ironed over the pleasant wrinkle of bitter citrus and violet leaf, juxtaposed with violet, spices, and oakmoss, but at least the new version uses a twinkling anise note to fill in that gap.

What has always been remarkable to me is how people miss the boat on Grey Flannel. People forget about it. They shouldn't. It's wrong. Grey Flannel is the most important masculine fragrance of the last 40 years.

Perfume addict, please, when you have time, do the following: poke around the back of your embarrassingly massive collection, and dig out Grey Flannel. Then, while you're back there, dig out Green Irish Tweed. And then, run to your local drugstore, and grab a bottle of Aspen by Coty. I'd like you to smell something.


When you've gathered these three scents, give each one a very gentle little half-spritz on your arm/wrist. Place them at an ample distance, to let your nose transfer. Once they've settled in, start with Green Irish Tweed, and give it a good whiff.

You'll notice its sweet, fresh, densely-green and creamy-woody character.


Now, give Grey Flannel a sniff. Use some coffee beans if you really must "clear the palate." But go directly from GIT to Grey Flannel. You'll find they're remarkably similar, to the point of almost smelling like the same fragrance at times. Grey Flannel is drier, a touch bitter. It's the difference between an old-school chypre and a modern fresh fougère. GIT is smoother, a little less roughly-hewn, but bears the overall character of its progenitor, thanks to the judicious use of ionones in both.


Now, give Aspen a sniff. Notice how aromatic (and hollow) it is. Grey Flannel is sweet, dense, rich. GIT is the same. Aspen is none of these things. Well, not entirely true, because it is sweet. And it has a lick of mint and perhaps hints of green apple, similar to GIT. It definitely shares a relationship with GIT, but it's hard to say that GIT is responsible for the eventual creation of Aspen, unless you figure it's in a roundabout way. The two are fougères, and both have a clean, green scent profile. One is remarkably expensive and smells like it. The other is remarkably cheap, and smells like it, but is crafted well enough to share some nuances with the Creed. This gives it a bump up.




Still, between the three, you can smell where the real relationship lies. If you need further convincing, grab your bottle of Cool Water and give that a half-spritz, and then compare again. You may as well be sniffing a stale pine-tree air freshener in the middle of Russia's Black Forest. The difference between Cool Water and the other three is that great, no exaggeration, although Cool Water exhibits a sturdy likeness with Green Irish Tweed in its own interesting ways. When you connect the dots, you realize that if Grey Flannel led to Green Irish Tweed (even their names are suspiciously textile-based), and GIT led to Cool Water - which in turn inspired the creation of its better-made competition by Coty - then Grey Flannel is our Moses, and André Fromentin is god.


























7/11/12

Sex Appeal For Men (Coty)



Some fragrances are seasonal, and some are perfect all year-round. Jōvan's simple herbal oriental, humorously titled "Sex Appeal," is as good in January as it is in July. Its secret: complexity.

Jōvan's fragrances are usually underrated, and sometimes (rarely) overrated - Musk for Men deserves more attention as an affordable alternative to the strange designer musks that populate the shelves of Sephora; Black Musk deserves to stand alongside those very same upscale oddities; Woman should be the formula for the world's first official "Air Travel Shampoo"; Ginseng NRG ought to be the standard-issue fragrance for prisoners at Gauntanamo Bay. But easily the most underrated of this line is Sex Appeal. There's evidence that it was intended to be an aromatic fougère, with all that soapy lavender on top, the patchouli-laden coumarin-esque thing in the middle, and bitter spice in the base. Yet the real appeal here is that the general structure of this scent retains its core woodiness without sacrificing the emotively green opening sweep of sweet French lavender, or the cool aloofness of its clove, fennel, and sage drydown.

No, Sex Appeal is linearly complex, if such a thing can exist. The herbal top is permanently fused to an herbal/floral bottom, with a solid connecting rod of earthy patchouli to lend this banal formula some surprising oomph! In cold temperatures, Sex Appeal's vivid lavender sweetly blankets its smoldering heart. In high heat, this purple aspect air-conditions the bawdiest, most-fun-to-wear patchouli that can be had for a portrait of Andrew Jackson. Good stuff, and it furthers the already-excellent notion that price is in no way correlative to quality.















7/10/12

Laundromat (Demeter Fragrance Library)



Conceptual perfumery is often the opposite of scented literalness; complex ideas are given a face. The danger for the Demeter Fragrance line is that most of their fragrances are supposed to be olfactory representations of a single everyday thing, and are therefore the stuff of novelty, not fine perfumery. Novelty always wears off.

There are, however, a few colognes in their range that attempt to convey a theoretical essence: Christmas In New York, Clean Skin, Clean Windows, Flower Show, Frozen Pond, Funeral Home, Greenhouse, Holy Smoke, Holy Water, Moonbeam, Ocean, Paperback, Pure Soap, Rain, Salt Air, Snow, Spring Break, Stable, Suntan Lotion, This Is Not A Pipe, Thunderstorm, Wet Garden, and Laundromat should have their own section on the Demeter website, labelled Abstract Colognes. The rest are simply linear one-note interpretations of food, plants, synthetic materials. I've had my eye on Play-Doh, but as long as I continue working in a school, it's superfluous for me to wear it.

Laundromat is conceptual, but only barely. Whoever formulated this was called into the lab on their day off, because it's the laziest execution I've sniffed in a while. I won't mince words - the in-house brief probably read, "Go to T.J. Maxx and spend twenty minutes sniffing discounted feminines from the Clean line, all the Cabotine flankers, and anything by Liz Claiborne. Then, stop by Walmart on the way back and buy a bottle of Tide. Come home and hit the lab, going by memory with the cheapies, while occasionally sniffing the detergent. Start mixing, and stop when you have a match."





















7/8/12

Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca (Guerlain)


Approaching a "fresh herbal" interpretation of an eau de cologne by Guerlain was something that required little hesitation on my part. I expected something delightful and simple, with very direct green notes, and a sparkly herbal drydown. Quality of materials would be top-notch, and the experience would be pleasant and unforgettable.

I was half-right.

Herba Fresca opens with an explosive lemon and mint accord, which is wedded to the most unpleasant synthetic "aqua" note I've ever smelled. The beauty of the citrusy mint is undone by something that belongs in laundry detergent, not a fine fragrance. Vowing to remain positive, I plugged through the first ten minutes of this fragrance as it settled into my skin, exploring how the green notes would reconcile themselves with that ugly chemical thing that refused to go away. Fifteen minutes, and then twenty minutes later, the "aqua" note faded a bit, and the herbal elements became stronger. Quite a relief.


The mint never disappears, nor does the lemon, but the two notes are joined by a very fresh green grassy element, as well as a green tea note, which smells designer-grade. Without exaggeration, the tea in Herba Fresca is on par with the tea in Liz Arden's $15 Green Tea spray. A grassy feeling pervades the rest of Herba's considerable lifespan, enduring for a good three hours with minimal application in high heat. By the ninety minute mark, that disgusting water note has vanished, and a lovely little melange of mint, grass, and something that resembles basil, without actually being full-fledged basil, fleshes out the base. It's very nice, and completely unisex - actually more masculine to my nose, thanks to all the bitter backyard greens.

My disappointment is not with the fizzy greenness of this scent, but with its horrible opening, and decidedly mediocre materials. I expected a little more from Guerlain. But then again, I'm a malcontent.


















7/7/12

Bang (Marc Jacobs)


I'd like to start by saying something nice - I love the bottle for Bang. Its metallic, hit-by-a-car aesthetic is fun to look at, and surprisingly easy to hold. Must be all those straight lines curved inward. Bravo to Mr. Jacobs' package design team.


Now, I learned something today while wearing Bang. I stopped into Marshalls and found an EDT/Aftershave set of Sung Homme, which I promptly purchased. It's rare to find Sung Homme in aftershave form. I gave my purple acquisition a quick spritz in the parking lot, just to make sure it was good (Marshalls doesn't store its fragrances correctly). It was, and actually smelled better than my current bottle, which makes me wonder if it's an older formula. But after a few minutes on skin, I had a difficult time telling Sung apart from Bang. Some of this was olfactory fatigue, but the thrust of my story is that Sung Homme has a lot more black pepper in it than I thought. Fortunately, it also has a lot of other stuff in it to balance the spiciness out, like violet leaf, vetiver, carnation, geranium, and rose.

Bang, on the other hand (literally), is much less complicated. It opens with a pleasant burst of fruity pink pepper, which maintains its fresh ambiance for a good twenty minutes on skin, and is balanced with some well-rendered patchouli. It gradually segues into something with more kick - a black and white pepper accord that combines with a dry, nondescript woody note. Ninety minutes after application, the pepper trio fades away, leaving just that one spare wood note. There's literally nothing else to Bang. That's it.

If that's enough for you, and you happen to love pink pepper, maybe Bang is something you should try. If you prefer pepper as an olfactory condiment, and not the main dish, you're better off with Sung Homme, or any other classic masculine chypre or fougère. Bang is, in a word, boring.
















7/6/12

N°5 Eau de Cologne (Chanel)



The Eau de Parfum version of Chanel's flagship fragrance is truly gorgeous stuff, full of beauty and elegance and charming nuance. I'm never comfortable wearing it because its floral heart is so lush and bright that it feels strange to wear, as though my identity changed, and I'm now a pearl-necklaced senator's wife instead of the 30 year-old male plonker that everyone knows, and loves to hate.

Another problem with the EDP is that it's only appropriate for cold weather. I've had people tell me they wear it year-round, but I can't see doing that in the middle of July. It's best to abstain from N°5 until the humidity evaporates, and the crisp breezes of autumn return, unless you happen to have a bottle of the Eau de Cologne concentration. In which case, you're good for July, August, September - knock yourself out, Chanel fan!


N°5 EDC is a stripped and augmented version of its purer concentrations. The aldehydes are increased; the rose, iris, and jasmine are dialed way back; civet is dialed way up, in a manner which lends the construct a distinctly sweet, sweaty feel; neroli is the central flower, with bitter orange blossom and cool musk dominating the lifespan of this cologne. This attenuated variation opens with a brisk burst of aldehydes, followed by a piercingly animalic civet, which ushers in a freshened floral arrangement, all strewn across a humble sweaty-sweet base. The effect is both refreshing and interesting, and never blatantly strays into your standard fresh-citrus cologne territory, although citrus elements abound. I like how neroli is used - there's a bitter kick in the early drydown, which introduces the subtle woodiness in the formula.

I'm fairly certain the EDC of N°5 is discontinued, but bottles can still be found here and there, especially online. I wish I had one, as this version of N°5 is truly unisex, and totally wearable for men of all persuasions. Ebay usually has bottles posted, but beware of people selling watered-down L'Aimant by Coty in lieu of the real thing.

















7/5/12

Cuba (Czech & Speake)


Polarizing fragrances interest me because there's usually one group of people who interpret the scent falsely, and another that smells its whole truth. Those who are faked-out by the pyramid inevitably feel there is something wrong with it - a "bad note," or a strenuous accord, usually animalic in nature. For example, in Kouros, many smell a "urinal puck note," which they readily attribute to the civet. These folks generally don't like Kouros, and can't tolerate even a minute of it on themselves. Then there are those who smell the civet as it is integrated into a body of bergamot, honey, wildflowers, costus, vetiver, and incense. They feel the civet creates a "lift" of sorts, which keeps the citrus from becoming too flat and sour, and the earthy notes from being too down-to-earth (read: bitter, serious, remote). In other words, they smell the fun.

After Kouros, I think of none other than Cuba by C&S, as it's perhaps the one scent that is equally as polarizing. This fragrance has two camps: those who smell human feces in it, and those who don't. The feces-detectors insist there's a massive wallop of shit, which splats its filth against skin upon application, followed by some spicy notes, tobacco, and cedar, all haloed in the utterly nauseating and enduring odor of fresh slurry. The other group simply smells a gussied-up bay rum, with a nice mint note on top, and an aromatic cedar base. There's a fetid cigar tobacco note, which is very naturalistic, as if tobacco leaves are floating in the perfume. It's warm, pungent, a sweet smell, a bit animalistic, a bit humanistic, and very much of the Old World that Cuba has struggled to escape from for centuries. It's a lovely scent, and I'd be happy to own a bottle.


Give Cuba a fair chance. Eliminate the expectation of smelling crap notes from your mind. Think clean thoughts. Associate the bittersweet scent of mint, lime, tobacco, rum, bay, and cedar with a close shave, and the wonderful smell of shaving soap and cold water. If someone sniffs the air and says, "who shit their pants?", weigh their impression against your own, and if Cuba comes up short, wear Citrus Paradisi instead. People will ask "who pissed themselves?", but it's the lesser of two evils.














7/3/12

Royall Lyme (Royall Lyme Bermuda)



Royall Lyme is a rare one-note citrus cologne wonder. There are several lime scents out there that focus on being all about lime, but few come close to being as singularly designed as this one. This is Royall Lyme Bermuda's signature cologne, and as such I expected much more from it. It let me down in a big way.

The lime note is nice enough, and certainly smells plenty limey. There's a biting tartness, with just a hint of sweet, and an overall green, fruity feeling. It's quite naturalistic, and for a minute or two smells like I drizzled lime juice on my arm. But I must point out that the current formula of Royall Lyme is beleaguered by an alcoholic haze, which surrounds the scent in an astringent unpleasantness usually found in only the cheapest brews. This seems to add to its volatility. There's five minutes of limey goodness, and then poof! - It's completely gone. There are no wildflowers, no musks, no spices or herbs, nothing underlying the simple fruit note. They really took the concept literally, and left nothing else for the nose to toy with. A pity.

Given its low price, I recommend giving Royall Lyme a try. If you're the sort of guy who likes a fresh splash after a shower or shave, and just want a short-lived lime cologne for the summer, you could do worse. I understand Pinaud still makes Lime Sec. But if you'd like something with an elegant lime on a floral/musk base that persists for a good hour after application, you could do much, much better. Royall Lyme is the slouchy slacker in the back of the classroom who gets invited to all the parties and knows all the girls, yet defers to the much-smarter Floris Limes for answers whenever the teacher gives a test.
















7/2/12

Tommy (Tommy Hilfiger)


The 1990s belonged to Alberto Morillas. The man single-handedly defined the decade with fragrances like Acqua di Gio, CK One, Pi, Pleasures, and Tommy. Acqua di Gio was a blatant clone of Creed's Millésime Impérial, yet it charted the course of masculine fragrances, and became the highest-selling cologne in America. CK One made Calvin Klein relevant again. Pi became the poster-boy for what not to do with amber notes. Pleasures . . . well, I don't know what the hell to say about Pleasures, except that it wasn't a predictable release by Lauder. And Tommy was simply lovely. All of these fragrances were fresh, clean, shimmery. They're the olfactory equivalent of silver gelatin print photography. Freshness reigns supreme.

I wore Tommy Girl today, for two reasons: it's hot, and I wanted to. I like Tommy Girl a lot, and I think it's the brand's best fragrance, hands down. It's one of a precious few blatantly feminine aquatics that I feel comfortable wearing, and always smells amazing. But one thing that bothers me about Tommy Girl is that it doesn't exactly represent the quintessential American fragrance style. I applaud Luca Turin for giving it five stars, and I totally get what he says about it. Tea Florals have their hero.


But Tea Florals aren't what the majority of Americans gravitate to when buying personal fragrance. These perfumes are a little too sophisticated for us. I'm of the persuasion that the scent category pulls its soul from Paris and the hills of Europe, and the whole "composition fell neatly into several native American varieties of flowers" jive is just about passing polygraph tests. When I sniff Tommy Girl, I think, "if only women in America really wore stuff like this." It's a popular perfume, still made, still selling, still getting over-applied by teenagers and twenty-somethings here and there. But when women in America shop for perfume, they're not saying, "Hmmmm, wonder what the latest tea floral is like." You get my drift.


Tommy, the masculine progenitor to Calice Becker's formula, seems significantly more honest on that front. It brims with the scent of apples and cranberries, with hints of cinnamon creating an apple pie effect, and wildflowers lending the fruity cleanness an herbal breeze. Think Litchfield county, Connecticut, on a warm day in July, and you have the basic idea. Tommy opens with a burst of bergamot, orange, and lime, softened by a nondescript floral note, and a slight aqueous element. Maybe the aldehydes are dialed up higher than I give them credit for, but this scent is mysteriously bright. Eventually the fruits step in and weave their way past the freshness, contouring the heart. Without them, the scent would collapse under the weight of all that bawdy "clean." It's masculine, it's fresh, rather fougère-like, although with an oriental flourish. A hay-like drydown is tinged with lavender, amber, and the last remnants of kitchen spice. Maybe it's coumarin; I don't know what's in there. But it's very nice.

Tommy is harder to find now, and is seemingly eclipsed by Tommy Girl and all the weird and dismal flankers of these two scents. If you see a bottle, grab it. Wear it. Alternate between wearing it, and wearing Tommy Girl. You'll smell what I'm talking about, and it won't detract from either scent in the least.















7/1/12

Dior Homme Sport (Dior)

I grew up in the 1980s and '90s. I'm not opposed to fresh fragrances - they defined the era in which I lived as a young person, and were instrumental to everyone but me getting laid in high school. Oh, it's okay, I've managed since my teenage years, but at this point smelling fresh isn't what gets me the girls. Personality and spiritual connections are what bond me to women at this stage of my life. I know that sounds cheesy, but what can I say? I've matured. Somewhat.

People in the perfume blogosphere seem to forget that not everyone is in their 20s and 30s. Not all perfumes are for fully mature adults. We have our sophisticated orientals, vetivers, and citrus chypres. We wetshavers have our woodsy fougères; the ladies enjoy floral arrangements and smooth vanilla orientals, ala Shalimar. But these things don't exactly appeal to 16, 17, and 18 year-olds. That 20 year-old college guy who mows lawns in the summer isn't saving up for a bottle of Oud Ispahan. The notion that a guy could wear something rose-flavored hasn't entered his mind yet, and won't for another six or seven summers, if ever. With perfume, it's all about one thing: whatever attracts girls.


Christian Dior inflated this concept when his brand hired Edmond Roudnitska to create its citrus chypre masterpieces - Eau Sauvage is still wearable by pretty much anyone, at any age. But in the 1960s and '70s, women were attracted to men with cars. If you were the guy who rode his bike to McDonalds, you were pretty much in a long-term relationship with your right hand. In 2012, girls take cars for granted. Today's girls aren't impressed by your 1998 Mustang. They're impressed if you're cool. And smelling cool is a whole big part of the package.

Dior Homme Sport is very, very cool. It boasts a neon-yellow lemon note that smells both intensely artificial and remarkably refreshing. If you use your imagination, you may detect a slight edging of lime, before a pretty ginger pulls up and keeps pace with Sport's predominantly citrus body. After twenty minutes on skin, Sport becomes more herbal, with a muted grapefruit lending the freshness a hint of funk, and a shadow of sandalwood adding depth. Beyond these light, airy notes, Sport is simply clean, a bit loud, and very unsophisticated. There's a little rosemary, a little lemon balm, maybe a hint of mint. There's nothing memorable here.

But this fragrance isn't for adults. It's for the teenagers who save their after-school job money and visit the fragrance counter at Macy's twice a year. It's for the 18 year-old guy who has a crush on Lauren in homeroom, and dreams of getting to third base with her in the back of his 1998 Mustang. It's for all those girls who associate synthetic air-freshener fragrances with being "clean," and illogically connect "clean" to "sexy," because that's what The Hills taught them to think. Does this fragrance work as a fine perfume for a 30 year-old guy who wants a long-lasting, meaningful relationship with an intelligent and mature woman? Maybe, but he doesn't need it, he has Eau Sauvage, or even Diorella for that. Does it work for the kid making milkshakes at Denmo's? I hope so: we're incredibly cruel to male virgins in the Northeast.