Millésime Impérial (Creed)

Green Irish Tweed is Creed's biggest seller; Millésime Impérial is their second megahit, with a marginally smaller audience. Unlike GIT, MI does nothing for me personally, but I respect it as being arguably the most important fragrance in the history of masculine perfumery, and for one reason only - it spurred the release of Acqua di Gio. This alone means very little in the artistic sense, but on a commercial scale it's huge. For reasons that elude meaningful analysis, AdG remains the No.1 best-selling men's EDT in America, and a massive success around the world.

It's no wonder that Olivier and Erwin have snooty attitudes. Their brand is reviled across fragrance forums by every Tom, Dick, and Harry, subjected to countless slights, and labeled the "Gillette of niche perfumery." Meanwhile, two of Creed's contemporary releases spawned game-changing imitations. Luca Turin fawns in five-star fashion over Cool Water, and reluctantly shrugs four stars on GIT. AdG gets less praise, but also less attitude than MI. Generally speaking, GIT and MI are outdated fragrances with limited mass appeal at their price point. But if I were Olivier or Erwin, I'd continue raising prices out of spite. Maybe by whittling their customer demographic down with exorbitant fees, the haters will abandon ship. These perfumes deserve a little more respect.

Millésime Impérial is one of my least favorite Creeds, although this was the case before I even smelled it. The whole citrusy, melony-aquatic thing does nothing for me. It's conceptually boring. Perhaps I'm jaded by the armies of fruity-fresh shampoos, body washes, bar soaps, deodorants, aftershaves, laundry detergents, window cleaning solutions, dishwashing tabs, bathroom air-fresheners, reed diffusers, Yankee candles, and "body mists" (whatever those are). I went to high school in the '90s and wore Tommy for two years straight - I don't need sweet and fruity aromatics anymore. Quality it may be, but Millésime Impérial is an unnecessary fragrance as far as I'm concerned.

Back in 1995, however, it was a supernova. As with most niche scents, its commercial release was stealthy but influential. The whole eau de cologne category made a comeback, and variants like Versace's Baby Blue Jeans, Armani's feminine Acqua di Giò, and Goutal's Eau du Sud, all helped to define it. Then came Millésime Impérial, with its top-shelf ingredients, bold floral assertions, and flashy gold packaging. It opens with a brilliant bergamot, lemon, and salted white floral accord, the brine twisting the bitter citrus and floral sweetness into an olfactory impression of melon. These notes hold on for a while as the citrus burns off, leaving a salty-sweet iris and ambergris in their wake. Everything dances to the minimalist tune of smooth musk and ambergris, with the ambergris the showcase note. In the past, Creed paired judicious quantities of real ambergris with ample synthetic supports, but the company recently switched its entire line to some version of ambroxan, with no ambergris tinctures whatsoever. I have mixed feelings about this. For the money they charge, they should still use ambergris, but whatever synthetic they've chosen works nicely enough. It radiates a metallic sweetness with equal aplomb.

My only olfactory issue with this scent is its heaviness - that opening volley of salty notes is surprisingly powerful, and the ambergris is leaden. Millésime Impérial fits the '90s zeitgeist of syrupy aquatics quite well. Considered unisex by many, it reads more feminine to me, and its whole-hearted rendition of iris veers the opposite direction of Green Irish Tweed's. Hints of green spices with muted notes of rosemary and sage occasionally peek through the heart notes, presaging the overall gist of Acqua di Gio, and giving MI a dynamism that its successor lacks. I like the nuances to this scent, and wish I could love it, but it remains firmly in the "like" column. Unless someone sneezes a $60 1-ouncer at me, I doubt I'll ever own it. Its fans applaud its versatility on summer days, and I'm sure it opens up nicely in 85°+ heat. For what it accomplishes, I'll skip Millésime Impérial altogether and just wear Unbound instead. This is a try-before-you-buy adult aquatic by an exclusive niche company, and I credit it for generating several years of like-mannered things. Perhaps in another ten years, after we've been sugared to death by Lutens, Mugler, and Gaultier, Millésime Impérial will get its due.

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