Zino (Davidoff)

Every once in a while, someone starts a thread on a fragrance site asking what the "darkest" or "most goth" scent is. There are usually a myriad of answers, but a select few are guaranteed to be mentioned. No 88 by Czech & Speake always shows up, as do Montale's Black Aoud, Dior's Poison, and Kingdom by Alexander McQueen. Lately, Zagorsk by Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense has gained traction in the black-heart market, while more debatable entries include Paestum Rose by Eau D'Italie, Jacomo de Jacomo, and Ungaro III.

All of these perfumes are expensive, hard to find, or obscure. With the exception of Jacomo, these "dark" items need some pretty deep pockets. They also require more than a little pretension; wearing Kingdom, Black Aoud, or No 88 outside the bedroom is a No-No unless you're accessorizing with a history of murder, a mental illness, or a bevy of friends from that Guggenheim gala you attended last weekend. If it's not being sold as a death-threat or art, no one's buying it.

Unless you're wearing Zino by Davidoff. The first cool thing about this ambery fougère from 1986 is that it's inexpensive. The second thing is that people are under the odd impression that it's discontinued, which puts it firmly in that netherworld of shadowy and rare retro frags that only true connoisseurs would wear. Last but not least, Zino is the darkest, sultriest, "gothiest" fougère imaginable.

It opens with a smooth lavender, bergamot, and sage accord that rapidly darkens into a huge heart of rosewood, rose, geranium, and patchouli. Many admirers of Zino seem to identify a rich rose note, but my nose finds the rosewood far more dominant. In fact, Zino's entire structure is made of wood. A simple trio of rosewood, sandalwood, and cedar lift the potentially-dull elements of citrus, herbs, and spices above a legion of turgid orientals and Victorian-fougère wanna-be's. Every facet of the fragrance is dusty and sinister, like David Bowie in the classic goth flick The Hunger.

My tastes tend to reflect my moods, and I slip into shadow more than light. It's not that I'm truly "dark" or mean. These are tough times, and life has been tough for me, and for almost everyone I know. The prevailing zeitgeist is dead, and the string of days we've all been living in are a requiem to it. The only thing left is a mere shadow of the past, that grim optimism that dominated the '80s and '90s. Saccharine gourmands and airy floral perfumes don't work anymore.

Zino, however, characterizes the quiet desperation of a 21st Century man perfectly, down to its last vapor.