Azzaro Pour Homme (Azzaro)

If Tsar by Van Cleef & Arpels is the best fougère of the last quarter century, then Azzaro Pour Homme is the best of 35 years, and counting. I used to dislike Azzaro PH because of its overwhelming intensity, but the recent reformulation has solved that problem, no doubt to the chagrin of its fans. I prefer the new version because it doesn't give me headaches the way the original did. In fact, the top notes resemble a high quality sport fragrance, with bracing lemon and sweet lavender dominant. It does lack the depth of its predecessor, but the core components are still very much a part of the scent. This is still a woody, anise-laden fern, full of freshness and life.

There are billions of young men out there in the world, and it's safe to say that most of them don't know a blessed thing about perfumery, nor do they care. They generally gravitate toward whatever smells conventionally good, things with high designer brand recognition. There are broad categories to choose from, and here in America you're either a 1 Million man (Paco Rabanne), a CK In 2 U man (Calvin Klein), or a more mature but academically-dense Boss Orange Man man (Hugo Boss). Those who are young enough to have attended high school in the aughts are cursed with having the same grey citrus aquatic in a gazillion incarnations to choose from, while those old enough to remember the '80s are surprisingly cursed with poor memories. Which is the long way of saying that American guys have either never been properly exposed to good things, or have forgotten them.

Sadly, such is the case with the modern fougère. Cool Water is a classic that has not been forgotten, and rightfully so, but it steered the entire fougère category into the olfactory equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe's maelstrom. Funny thing, though - the two best aromatics in fragrance history came before and after Cool Water. Tsar, released in 1989, was the last of the great aromatic ferns; Azzaro Pour Homme, released in 1978, was second to last. Azzaro's beautiful arrangement of lemon, bergamot, lavender, oakmoss, anise, vetiver, caraway, sage, and cedar is dry, austere, green, and Italianate in style. Its European sophistication was once considered desirable on western shores, but no more. People grew tired of walking through aromatic clouds everywhere they went, and the invention of fragrance-free zones put the final nail in the classical aromatic fougère's coffin.

Sometime during the 1990s, the last teenager bought the last full-priced bottle of Azzaro Pour Homme, and proceeded to ignore the unconventionally beautiful girls it attracted. I suppose passing on the sexy-librarian type named Zoey (okay, maybe her braces didn't help) in favor of the sultry, snow-haired cheerleader Amber is forgivable, except that Amber ended up a single mom with a studio apartment in Hackensack and a Ford Taurus in the driveway. Zoey, on the other hand, is currently modeling at five figures for upstart designers in Paris while teaching English to businessmen and sleeping with wealthy Russian expatriates. Given the circumstances, I'd regret snubbing Zoey that day she asked me to the junior prom in homeroom, especially since Facebook now makes regret a verifiable business.

But I digress - the point here is that Azzaro Pour Homme, and similarly-wrought conservative green fougères, smell mature and traveled. Luca Turin has argued that a man's scent should never be more traveled than he is, but I disagree. The world is a tough field in which to play, and one needs every possible advantage at his disposal. A few years ago I was hobnobbing with an elderly gentleman who ran an excellent vintage perfume shop. He told me, "perfume is an illusion. You apply it, you go out and about among people, and they get a sense of something special around you, but it should never be in their face." This perfectly describes the reformulated Azzaro Pour Homme. It is ephemeral, natural, green, masculine, and alluring. Like Tsar, this fougère is useful at any time, in any place. I find the use of anise to be a tad challenging, and that's okay depending on your mood. For the times I want something different, I have plenty of other options. For the times I want to attract those unconventional and worldly Zoeys, I have Azzaro, and I'm thankful.

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