Platinum Égoïste (Chanel)

The summer of 2003 was a bad one for me. I suffered a severe sinus infection that no doctor would acknowledge, and was couch-ridden, peering through pressure-addled eyes at old movies between work shifts. There was a severe drought, and a brief brown-out that resulted in a run on water and non-perishable food supplies. It was also the year that I ran out of Allure Homme, and for whatever reason couldn't quite swing the cost of another bottle.

My budgeting priorities were wacky back then, and the difference of ten or fifteen dollars was enough to crimp my style on everything from shirts and jeans, to liquor and fragrance. My shortfalls were numerous. I threw parties with Red Dog instead of Heineken. I bought polo shirts from Walmart instead of JC Penney. My bank account yo-yoed between co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drug purchases. I managed to finagle a semblance of my normal lifestyle, but everything was just a little . . . off.

I don't know if it's still priced this way, but a 3.4 ounce bottle of Allure Homme was about $65, while the same size for Platinum Égoïste was $56. I distinctly remember that Saturday at Macy's, staring at the glass display (back when they actually put prices next to the product), weighing the pros and cons of coughing up an extra ten bucks for Allure vs. taking a chance on this relatively unpopular silver-capped flanker of Égoïste. The irony is that I probably would have paid an extra ten bucks for regular Égoïste, had Macy's offered it. But I was resigned to spending a little less for everything, and my Chanel purchase was no different. I bought Platinum blind and took it home.

I regretted it. The original formula of Allure Homme was a rich, creamy tonka and pepper affair, very velvety smooth and bittersweet. At this point, in my sophomore year of college, I'd already gone through four or five bottles. I was attuned to Allure in a way that I've never been attuned to anything. And I expected all Chanels to possess the same rich, decadent nature. Imagine my surprise upon encountering the sharp bitterness of Platinum Égoïste.

It opens with a barrage of screechy herbal notes, rife with lavender, rosemary, petitgrain, and the spicy aloofness of geranium. Nice enough, but harsh, and a little too dry for my liking. It also smelled a trifle hollow, despite its "busyness." I always felt as though something were missing from Platinum Égoïste - a dollop of grapefruit or lemon perhaps, or maybe even a contrasting accord of honey and civet paired with the neroli and jasmine in the heart. As it stands, Platinum smells very crisp and silvery - and then like nothing at all.

After an hour on skin a woody base asserts itself, throwing a half-assed cedar and vetiver arrangement against the usual Chanel aldehyde hangover, putting awkward earthy struts against a nondescript chemical haze. Some compare Platinum Égoïste to Cool Water, but frankly I don't get the comparison at all. Cool Water offers a pleasant aromatic lavender, mint, cedar, and jasmine, all accompanied by a muted tobacco flower, and winds up smelling very fresh and sweet, with a certain degree of watery softness. Platinum Égoïste just smells pungent, stinging, full of frozen lavender, sage, cedar, and moss. It's a very cold scent, very unfriendly. I imagine Darth Vader would fancy some PE after shaving space dust off his metal face with a laser.

My experience serves as a lesson to guys who incorrectly assume it's worth keeping up appearances in fragrance, rather than find something that just smells good. Even though it was crap, I had to buy something from Chanel, because at least it was Chanel. I should have known that price and brand name aren't correlative to quality, but I was naive then.

I know now.

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