Brut Classic (Helen of Troy)

I get one day off each week (Sunday), and I used today to seek out members of the Brut family. There's no escaping it - I'm a fragrance nut. There's a pretty good fragrance shop in Waterbury that sells all sorts of classic men's frags. I went there and snagged a 3 oz. glass bottle of Brut Classic. That's the one in the middle of the picture, with the silver medallion hanging on its hairy chest. Handsome, isn't he?

To its left is Brut 33 - i.e. Brut Splash-On - which was reviewed yesterday. To its right is the 3 oz. plastic bottle version of Brut Cologne, which I was able to find at Walgreens for the surprisingly high price of $9.56. In comparison, Splash-On was only $6.56, and you get 7 ounces of it. Brut Classic was $21. Still, that's 13 ounces of Brut for a combined total of $37.12. Quite affordable, all things considered.

I'll do a two line review of the plastic bottle version of Brut Cologne: this fragrance opens with a smooth lemon balm/lavender/mint combination, quickly joined by ylang-ylang, jasmine, amber, musk, and a touch of powder. It reads as a higher concentration of Brut Splash-On, with more punch in the top, and a tangible drydown that smells pleasantly green and barbershoppy.

Now, on to Brut Classic. This is the most summery-green barbershop cologne I've ever encountered. I can't remember if I've ever sniffed Brut Classic before today, but I know I've worn the regular "original" cologne in plastic. I'm somewhat neutral on the plastic bottle version, although I lean more toward liking it than not. The Classic version in glass, however, is simply divine juice.

Classic opens with a rush of mint, lemon juice, anise, basil, and lavender. The mint is mentholated and bright green, and its pairing with basil and anise makes for a warm, grassy feeling; the lavender lifts the opening accord over Brut's heavier heart notes. After a minute, sweet ylang-ylang and jasmine appear, very indolic and ripe. Here's where Classic approaches the barbershop feel of its plastic bottle brethren. The floral notes become soft and powdery, and an ambery vanillic drydown, still tinged by the greenness of mint and lemon, imbues itself into skin. The resultant smell is very clean, and quite wonderful.

The biggest difference between Classic and "Original Cologne" is in the treatment of the top notes and the drydown. The heart notes are similar, too close to dissect. But in Classic, the herbal minty greenness is much more pronounced, while the lemon and mint stands out more in Original. Also, anise is used more generously in Classic, and lends the scent some depth and balance it might otherwise lack. I also sense a higher fidelity to the floral notes in Classic than in Original. While both fragrances have a decidedly barbershop-like drydown, Classic is more of a fresh green smell, while Original holds more powder, and smells more abstract.

The usage of ylang-ylang and jasmine is genius in Brut. Without these floral notes, the scent would smell like Mennen's Skin Bracer (which by the way isn't really made by Mennen anymore). It would be an abstract mint, lemon, vanilla affair, very fresh and clean. Brut is classified as an ambery fougère, and hugs the outskirts of the category, coming very close to orientalism. Unlike other ambery fougères like Zino and Allure Homme, Brut embraces greener components and has a very naturalistic feel. I'm reminded of the barbershop oriental Royal Copenhagen when I sniff Brut Classic's middle development, as the spicy floral components mirror RC's overall vibe. But I also sense a touch of Kouros' earthy woodiness, particularly in the first ten seconds after the juice leaves the atomizer. Brut Classic is a very well defined scent.

Wise noses have asked lesser snouts why they hate on Brut so much, given its 40+ year commercial run. It seems en vogue to trash this fragrance in the face of newer, fresher offerings. Perhaps other things have surpassed Brut in quality and style, but then again, perhaps not. I'm convinced that there is an extremely small population of guys under the age of 35 who wear Brut. Maybe 1% of guys in that demographic. For those over 35, and even more so among those over 40, Brut enjoys more popularity. I'm guessing a solid 35% of middle-aged cologne-wearing males have at least one bottle of Brut in their bathroom cabinet. This is enough to keep it commercially popular and relatively cheap.

My suppositions about Brut's demographic appeal are musings on the proper time and place for Brut. I think Brut is a great all-season scent that really shines during the spring and summer months. And I think it's something very few young guys are wearing these days. This gives me all the more reason to wear it. There's an attitude that young women crinkle their nose at Brut, but I'm not so sure. Maybe some teenagers and party girls dislike it. But nothing appeals to all women of all ages. Some fragrances find love strictly with preppy college girls, while others appeal to women with retro sensibilities - there may be a smattering of hippies, vegans, artists, and philosophers in that group. There are all kinds of women in the world, and I'm sure a sizable number of them like how Brut smells on a man.

All I know is, they don't keep making this stuff because it smells raunchy and unwearable. Conceptual experiments end up gone and forgotten; Brut Classic is anything but forgettable.