Z-14 (Halston)

The realm between cinnamon orientals and leathery chypres is a dangerous one for me, mainly because I dislike the first kind and like the second. Where leathery chypres are usually woody, dark, and irriguous, spicy orientals are often sweet, green, ambery, and dry. As different as they can be, there's a fine line separating the two fragrance types, and sometimes all it takes is one wrong step in either direction to change, or even ruin a scent.

Such is the case with Z-14, Halston's 1974 orienta/chypre hybrid for men. Formulated by Vincent Marcello, Z-14 is one of the few chypres out there than I have a hard time wearing. The culprit: cinnamon.

Z-14 opens with a pungent lemon, bergamot, vetiver, and oakmoss arrangement that rapidly warms into a tobacco-like accord of lavender, olibanum, amber, and cinnamon. To my nose, the cinnamon intensifies with time and becomes an overwhelming note. It's strange because Z-14 isn't very far removed from its younger sibling, 1-12. Both fragrances feature elements of pine, carnation, patchouli, and tree mosses. Yet somehow 1-12 remains fresh and green, while Z-14 seems to devolve into a dirty, over-spiced mess. This type of fragrance fell out of fashion for a few decades, but with the recent woody and oud-centric niche craze, I could see Z-14 regaining some traction in the market of men's colognes. I can't help but wonder if the Z would be better on women these days, as female skin may treat the cinnamon accord better, while also bringing out more of the jasmine and gardenia (good luck with the gardenia). I do like the bottle, designed by Elsa Peretti, who designed all of Halston's classic fragrance bottles. It's simple but artfully-crafted, in accordance with Peretti's "simple is better" fashion aesthetic.

This is a try-before-you-buy if you're attracted to retro colognes, but are on the fence about dry, leathery chypres. If it doesn't appeal to you, no biggie - 1-12 is the same price, and probably sitting right next to it on that store shelf in Marshalls or TJ Maxx.

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