Before I set about reviewing Creed Millésime Impérial and Acqua di Gio, I think it's a good idea for me to familiarize you, should you need familiarizing, with the dirty little secret about these scents: Unbound for Men is the truest clone of Acqua di Gio, which is the truest clone of Millésime Impérial. Therefore, Unbound is the best choice for cash-strapped 22-year old skirt-chasers. Unfortunately, 99% of the aquatic audience are cash-strapped 22 year-old skirt-chasers, making Unbound the most useful and culturally prescient brine-themed scent. I say "unfortunately" because Millésime Impérial is more beautiful, and Acqua di Gio is more appealing, so most youngsters will miss out on this scent. Ideally, in a perfect world, 22 yr-olds could shake their Bens for 8 oz flacons of Millésime Impérial, and use them to their sexual advantage until they turn 30. I must pinch myself now and remember that this is not, contrary to what my daydreams tell me, a perfect world.
But it's good enough, thanks to Halston's cloning apparatus. An unlikely company to successfully pull off an aquatic copy, Halston somehow roped the market with their original Unbound for women, and then translated the scent into a remarkable doppelganger of AdG. At $20 for a 3.4 oz bottle, you can't go wrong. I'm the sort of person who doesn't want to spend much on aquatics, so if I can find one that does what it's supposed to for under $50, I'm happy. Unbound ticks those boxes, and - surprise surprise - smells expensive. Many aquatics employ calone as a fresh burst of heavy fruitiness which penetrates the scent's entire lifespan before degrading into a hollow white musk. The members of the board seem to think that if it smells fruity and "fresh," it's an aquatic. Uhhh, no. A proper aquatic employs truly aquatic accords, namely notes of salt, any variation of weedy brine, wildflowers, spices, and something green for balance. There should be an impression of catching misty sea air on the bow of a sailboat, with glimpses of shoreline peeking over the whitecaps. Unbound gives this impression with minimal effort, and the sort of panache found in fragrances five times its cost.
It opens with a well-blended lime, an odd juniper note, and tomato leaf. The tomato leaf dominates, and grows stronger as the scent dries down, but the juniper, presumably the "Bombay Sapphire Gin" accord listed on basenotes, is intriguing. It smells wet and hazy, like it's wafting over high tide. The top threatens to fall flat, but this note saves it and adds significant punch to the salty greenness that follows. Eventually the tomato leaf blares past a polite arrangement of pink pepper and sage, with the latter slowly trumping the former as everything moves into the drydown. The woody base doesn't try to be intense and super-masculine, but instead opts for transparency. It smells realistic, dry, and full of salted timbres. The juniper remains prominent, and I almost feel a piney aspect to the drydown, which I think puts it above that of Acqua di Gio. I really enjoy Unbound, and can respect how it develops because it doesn't do the usual thing. It stays true to its concept - sailing unfettered across salt water - while holding the integrity of each individual note.
Oddly enough, I have problems with Millésime Impérial and Acqua di Gio that I don't have with Unbound. MI is awfully headstrong for a Creed, and its heavy iris/melon top notes pierce its delicate salty ambergris base. It's beautiful, but headache material for me. AdG smells good, but I find myself wishing it were greener. It has the potential to be, yet never goes there. Unbound is neither cloying, nor lacking in greens, and illuminates the essence of being seabound as deftly as it conveys the sensation of being free.