10/25/11

Nobile (Gucci)



Fougères are typically scent constructions built on lavender and bergamot in the top notes, coumarin and clove in the base notes, and anything else in-between. Aromatic fougères take things into a more surrealistic realm, adding to the basic framework any combination of spices, woods, and fruits. This can be a big plus, but unfortunately many aromatics are also fresh fougères. Some of the better ones are Azzaro pour Homme, Skin Bracer, and Francesco Smalto pour Homme, all of which fall into that "fresh" category. Alongside these distinguished entries are the hoi polloi: CK Be, Tommy, and Façonnable, to name a few. These scents try to smell fresh and edgy, rather like olfactory dares. They offer callowness, along with what their makers hope is a perceptible twist. One can only guess as to what they're shooting for. Perhaps the brightness of their accords is an attempt to infuse the empty Western-acculturated formula of Fresh + Clean = Sexy + Intriguing ÷ Sexual Tension² with meaning. I think they share a closer correlation with Alfred Hitchcock's philosophy on the difference between true suspense, and a mere surprise. In regards to the surprise, he says (and I'm paraphrasing):

"Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, ‘Boom!’ There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. In [this] case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion.

Now, let us take a suspenseful situation . . ."


In other words, the tummy-butterflies that many contemporary fresh fougères hope to deploy are nothing more than indigestion. They're brief slices of drama, sandwiched between massive loaves of boring.

Gucci isn't known for peddling stylistic restraint, and the company's image is arguably all about sexual edginess, taken to the Nth extreme. When was the last time you saw a Gucci fashion ad that wasn't composed of starved, suggestively-posed hotties sprawled all over each other? I vote never. Yet Nobile comes across as the total opposite of this facade. Instead of smelling gaudy and contrived, this aromatic fougère is sleek, brooding, and - surprise, surprise - sophisticated. It smells more like a Chanel, or a Fendi, than anything Gucci. I guess the late '80s was a contemplative time for the kids down at 725 5th Avenue.

Nobile opens with a bracing lavender, rosemary, and citrus, all of which rapidly move into a dry green forest. The artistic license taken by whoever composed the scent (its author is unknown) is quite welcoming and masculine. A stunning mix of cool green notes are dabbed with hints of mace, thyme, and rose. Wearing Nobile is like riding a corvette through a forest of fir trees. Everything smells brisk, lucid, all the aromas tilled by a stiff wind through beds of wildflowers and unharvested herbs. I don't know why, but it reminds me of the Welsh countryside - a place I haven't visited since the early '90s. Even the woody drydown of cedar, sandalwood, amber, and musk smells rich.


It's hard to say exactly what brand of masculinity this scent caters to. I suppose it's along the lines of Ryan Gosling or, if you want to go all sepia, Robert Redford. Nobile is one of the few fougères that literally sparkles when you wear it. It feels like the toilet water of someone dangerous, its charisma expressed in classic accords that are simply done right. It's a fertile playing field, however, full of vigor, boldness, vitality - all common characteristics of the modern alpha male. There's an edginess in there, but it's refreshingly direct. It drives fast, but stays in its lane. At no time does its inner tension succumb to the cheap thrills of overt fruitiness, or sweetness.

This scent is a unique and evocative fresh fougère, a distinctive presence in a crowded field. Its presence is fading, however; Gucci discontinued Nobile years ago, in an aberrant fit of self iniquity. I have no idea why they did this. I can only hope they get their shit together and undo it, and soon.


























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