Bowling Green (Geoffrey Beene)

Of the three masculine Geoffrey Beene fragrances that exist, I enjoy Eau de Grey Flannel the least. Grey Flannel, on the other hand, is my favorite. Bowling Green falls squarely in the middle, inspiring neither love, nor hate.

I wasn't really around to witness it, but I can imagine the release of Bowling Green to the public back in 1986. There was a tepid fanfare of small magazine and department store ads, a little sample strip in a few men's magazines, and then just word of mouth. The whole campaign probably lasted no longer than two weeks. That's a shame, because Bowling Green deserved better. It's years ahead of its time, a very focused, very masculine aromatic scent.

The problem with Bowling Green, however, is one of perception: most guys write it up as a "bright" and "cheerful" summer green. I don't get that at all. To my nose, Bowling Green is shady, deep, dark-green. This is attributable to the hyper-realistic basil and rosemary in the top notes, melded with the equally-realistic cedar in the heart and base. Blended within the herbaceous and woody elements is a nice fir note, which gives it an evergreen feel. But that's the whole transition in Bowling Green; the fragrance opens with a dry basil and spicy juniper, then moves into a dryer lemon, pine, and artemisia, before drying down to cedar, sage, and fir. Very natural, very bitter, very nice.

Nevertheless, I'm not entirely won over. Cedar is a tricky note for me, and here it gets top billing. It's a semi-sweet, sometimes ashen, sometimes fetid smell. Usually it dominates whatever it's in. It isn't overdone in Bowling Green, but it is there. Some scents have cedar incorporated in them without making it very noticeable, but not Bowling Green. Another problematic element is that load of basil and rosemary on top. For the first fifteen minutes, I'm tempted to think I spilled a whole spice rack on myself. Eventually the basil melds into the lemon and atemisia, but until that point, I'm thinking kitchen, not Kentucky.

These quibbles aside, the broader development of the scent is very good, and quite enjoyable. For the right price, I could see myself owning a bottle. I'm a sucker for greens, after all. While sniffing my wrist today, I realized that the interplay of basil, pine, cedar, and citrus resembles a floral accord, notably honeysuckle. It's very subdued, but it appears occasionally in the mid-phase of the drydown. I really like honeysuckle, so that's a pleasant surprise. It's fleeting, though. Within an hour, the whole thing dries into a very close scent of fir and rosemary. Even sniffing two hours after application, I'm struck by how the herbs have reappeared to control the drydown, after dramatically stepping back from the scent's heart.

Sadly, Bowling Green has been discontinued for several years. But if you can find it, try it. It's worth exploring. Consider it the olfactory equivalent of taking a hike through the woods on an overcast day. The experience is fun, and a little sinister. If you want to find the "bright" side of the scent, consider this - at least with Bowling Green, you can't get lost.


  1. Just got it for 15 euros, and I really agree with your review. It's dark, thick and realistically green-balmy cedar with absolutely zero "cheerful" citrusy mood. That ton of cedar and fir creates a sense of slight syrupyiness which isn't really that far from many niche outfits (e.g. the same use Lutens did of these notes). All in all it's a quality scent for me, definitely unworthy the crazy collector's prices, but totally worthy its real retail price.

    P.S. I am also puzzled by the definition of this as "close to Drakkar Noir" as some mentioned.

    1. Bowling Green has been reissued. I'm considering buying a bottle before it gets discontinued again. Your description fits mine, and I think you have a better understanding of what you're smelling than most. The lesser noses smell anything with clean woods and immediately shout, "Drakkar Noir!" It's a very good scent but for the life of me I don't understand why Beene bothered to make it. Grey Flannel is a monumental tribute to green oakmoss and dry, woody citrus. Bowling Green is forgettable, but nice. I've always felt it was a shame they never made a feminine version of Grey Flannel. THAT would have been worth it.


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