Old Spice Classic (Shulton/Proctor & Gamble)

Quick question: who the hell is Joan Daly? Anyone? Anyone? All well, it was worth a try. Hey Joan, pout a little more and you'll look just like Courtney Stodden!

It's snowing outside, and there's about four inches already on the ground. Seems awfully early in the year for snow, but when you consider how the world is ending, maybe not so much. In a few years, when the polar ice caps have totally melted and we're all living like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, snow and gallons of frozen rain will be old hat. Until then, I'll try not to get too excited by an early Nor'easter.

I finally caved today and picked up a bottle of Old Spice. It was an interesting visit to Walgreens - they already have their Christmas specials out! Tons of fragrance and toiletry gift sets. That's another thing it's way too early for. What's going on here? Can't we at least have Halloween first? There weren't any sets of Old Spice, but they had the usual aftershave and cologne boxes in the men's aisle. I call it the men's aisle, although it's really not. Just that there's tons of stuff in that aisle that only men would buy - face razors, hair tonics, Pinaud talc, a crapload of aftershaves, and a deodorant section that's suspiciously short on lady stuff. You know what? I'm glad that aisle exists. It's one of the reasons I'm a faithful Walgreens guy (I hate CVS and Rite Aid. And with Rite Aid it's personal).

As the cashier rang me up, I could tell that Old Spice had taken a lot of hits. For one thing, the box has a crappy new look. Gone is the big sail boat of yesteryear, and even the newer "shiny" design has been retired. I actually liked that design. The off-red box was eye-catching, and I liked how the over-sized font hugged the corner. The new box, however, is lacking. Proctor & Gamble recently revamped the entire original Old Spice look, favoring an odd "sewn patch" motif on the cologne, aftershave, and body wash bottles. In an amazing display of stinginess, they've pared the color palette down to two - red and grey, and I don't know why they bothered with the grey since it's only used in miniscule amounts. This saves them money because more colors means a more expensive print job. 

Not that Old Spice was ever a vibrantly colorful product, but at least the previous boxes had a few reds, a black, and a navy blue, in addition to the grey. The glossy design that came just before the latest version had a pretty gold font, which is also gone. Now there's just the white of the box, an overload of plain red, and a tiny dab of grey where it says "Classic Scent". It's pretty bad. I hope it was worth it to save an extra buck by eliminating the blue in the logo.

Then there's the bottle. It's now plastic instead of Shulton's exotic Egyptian white sand glass. It sucks. Rather than describe it, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Color-wise it's a negative of the box, with the exact same imagery. The design works a little better on the bottle, but that patch is still . . . not good. Someone over at P&C needs a little tutorial on graphics. You never want to print an impression of anything sewn, stitched, taped, or thumb-tacked. The eye instantly recognizes when an unnecessary visual substitute has been employed in lieu of the real thing. It makes a product look cheap. Either sew a real patch on there, or change the image altogether. It's not like they don't have better material at their disposal - their trademark ship is a terrific graphic, full of fun and easy lines. It's now so small that I can barely see it.

Also, the stopper is red instead of grey. That's no big deal. I think I like red better. Grey is so WWII. Oddly enough, after cheaping out with the plastic, they kept the metal stopper lip. Yet even this is barely there. The metal is whisker-thin and might as well be painted plastic. Shulton used a nice solid steel piece to hold the stopper in place, but even that got trashed. What a travesty.

The scent has also been changed, but that's no surprise. It's a fairly simple fragrance, and they've changed it a few times over the years, with the most recent reformulation for bottling purposes. Plastic does a number on perfume, and here they had to streamline the scent for minimal damage. Still, compared to the old Shulton formula from the 1980s, this version is lacking. My breakdown:

Shulton Old Spice: The scent opens with a crisp burst of orange and aldehydes, followed by a procession of spices. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, pepper, sage, benzoin, frankincense, tonka, and vanilla are all present and accounted for. It's definitely spicy, with excellent note separation for drugstore juice. The notes smell realistic, too. Cinnamon from the kitchen rack isn't a spice I enjoy, and here it's putting me out - it's the real deal. The drydown is sweet and rewarding, and very warm, although I wouldn't associate it with my generation. It smells like something old and traveled, an archaic oriental with good sillage and longevity. Nicely done, and appealing to men everywhere.

P&G Old Spice: Aldehydes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, benzoin, and vague hints of orange fleetingly greet my nose in the first ten seconds of wear, but the drydown is much quicker than it used to be. The cinnamon is synthetic and toned down considerably, which ironically works better for me. The clove is a touch stronger, which adds a cleanness to the scent. The pepper, sage, and frankincense are nowhere to be found. Within a minute, a massive soapiness takes over. It's mostly vanilla, and something resembling anise. 

This accord weighs the base down, making it more aromatic and more linear. The anise note cleverly masks the bitter plastic smell. It's okay I guess. Better than a slew of pricier options, many of which are also sold at Walgreens. So it could be worse. But it's a little too facile now. Perhaps if used in conjunction with the body wash it scores highly with die-hard fans, but I'm not overly impressed. I still like it, though.

Old Spice is something I'd wear sometimes, and probably only on weekends. It has that casual feel to it, like something warm and familiar, a man's olfactory pajamas. I'm not one to delve too deeply into masculine orientals, but at least I know I'm safe with Old Spice. Unless you bathe in it, the stuff is as inoffensive as it gets.

I have to laugh at the new tagline printed on the box: If your grandfather hadn't worn it, you wouldn't exist. Thanks, grandpa. I think.