Red for Men (Giorgio Beverly Hills)

Love. Passion. Hunger. War.

Some colors are singular treasures, but red is four: it's why we associate Valentine's day with hearts, equate lust with high heat, stop at McDonald's for lunch, and forget our fear of blood in a fight. Red is about desire, anger, the sacred and profane. Without it we'd only have orange and yellow, two clearly-inferior shades. It's a fitting name for a perfume, and I'm glad Giorgio Beverly Hills thought of it. This fragrance used to command a very high premium off ebay and other vendors, presumably due to its discontinuation. Red is now back in production, and costs less than a pastrami sandwich at a New York deli.

This fragrance seems to polarize its audience. You either love it or hate it, with most loving it. It's classified as a leather, but the scent defies labels. Those who are hellbent on categorizing it call it a hybrid aromatic fougère and woody oriental, but I think it's an aromatic fougere with hints of orientalism. edit: having refreshed my nose on this scent, I realize that the fougere-like aspects of it are more prominent than I thought. There's an odd minty-fresh element paired with woody spices that gives it a more fern-like appeal. If it is a hybrid aromatic/woody oriental, it's a very subtle one. I'm not getting any fougère-like traits, and as I read the back of the box, I see that lavender is at the end of a long list of synthetics, although real oakmoss is used - wonder if I have a bottle of the original formula?

Red opens with a very sweet burst of rose and artemisia. This accord is darkened by a subdued cumin, and blended seamlessly into a heart of juniper, dewy jasmine, peppery carnation, and oakmoss. Sometimes I catch a whiff of mint, but it's fleeting if it's there at all. I read on forums about how synthetic Red smells, but I'm inclined to disagree - I can pick apart the juniper, jasmine, and carnation pretty easily. The jasmine lends sweetness to an otherwise-spicy moss scent. The blending here is impeccable, and makes it tricky to identify everything, but that's obviously intentional. Red conveys a smoothness that few other masculine orientals of the '90s ever employed. This EDT is a definite "smell." A man wearing this emits a complex dryness that transcends your average cologney vibe, and moves into a higher atmosphere of mature masculinity. It's obviously designed for cigarette smokers, and more sophisticated than some give it credit for.

Nowadays Red is more curiosity than perfume - the smoky, jazzy-cool aura of America in 1991 is long gone. Part '80s leftover, part '90s haruspex, Red occupies a rare no-man's land of masculine perfumery, the great divide between Reagan-era powerhouses and Clintonian air-kisses. To wear it is to defy both eras, and approach life from today alone.


  1. Hi Bryan,

    I recently bought a bottle myself, and I am enjoying it very much. My ingredients list also includes Oakmoss. Did you ever figure out a definite way of knowing the original from the new stuff? I'd love to know what I have. I can't find any decent answers anywhere, one person is adamant that Oakmoss is only listed on the original boxes, but it seems odd that we would both get lucky getting the original by chance.

    In any case, whatever it is, i like my bottle a lot.

    I also picked up a bottle of Giorgio for men at the same time, and by chance it appears to be the 'older reformulation' - at least according to the ingredients, i still am not 100% sure though since i did buy it on Amazon. it's absolutely fantastic. i can't compare it to what people refer to as the newer reformulation though. oh well. eventually it doesn't matter, just so long as you like it.

    - t.

    1. That's great that you're enjoying Red. It has probably a thousand notes in the unofficial pyramid, and truly several thousand aroma chemicals comprising them. Very, very complex fragrance.

      The easiest way to know whether you have a new bottle of Red, or an "original formula" bottle is to look at what you paid for it. If you got it for under $30, it's the new stuff. Original Red is expensive. I've seen it for $100 and up. But look around, you never know what ebay has to offer. Whoever said the new stuff lacks oakmoss either has a REALLY new bottle that stripped it out altogether, or just doesn't know what they're talking about. As far as I know, oakmoss is still in Red.

  2. thanks. hmm, well I won a 1.7 fl.oz. bottle for $8 on eBay. for the English market, I'm happy with that for any version! I'd still like to know a proper way of being sure. i'll read up some more...

    1. Is there a bar code on the box? If so, it's a new bottle. If not, it's vintage.

  3. oh! gee, that is simple then. mine does have a bar code.

    thanks for that.


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