L.12.12 Green (Lacoste)

Lacoste's original masculine is an example of how close a fragrance can come to perfection, and still miss the mark. Sure, it smells good, and presents a green chypre in a contemporary mode, but low-grade ingredients and an unimaginative composition sully what could have been a classic. As it stands, Original is just okay, very wearable, and utterly forgettable.

The "L series" Lacostes are a hair better, and Green is my favorite, which is no surprise. It's a fresh fougère with nods to Original and Pino Silvestre, although I prefer Pino. Green opens with aromatic lavender and bergamot, tinged with bitter lemon verbena and heady thyme. Tart herbal citrus notes dominate the opening, until a clean birch note appears, flanked by something I can't quite identify. The mystery note might be an analog of pickled ginger, the kind that garnishes sushi. It's mentholated and fizzy, with a spicy edge. As the hours tick by, lavender reasserts itself, then fades, doing an intermittent tap-dance past the trio of thyme, verbena, and birch. A pine-like effect, reminiscent of Christmas juniper wreath, sends the fragrance to its apex in both strength and projection, before everything slides into a nondescript laundry musk.

photo by Lord Snowdon

Just as the drydown seems destined to join dozens of others in the Contemporary Fragrance Drydown Hall of Shame, otherwise known as the CFDdHoS, an unusual olfactory illusion takes place. From its lofty perch in the pyramid-cap of top notes alights crisp bergamot, seemingly resurrected from the dead. This movement rouses L's birch element, which by now has been infused with sweet ginger, and creates an incense-laden church pew accord. Everything is blended with musk, and the result is very nice.

Some fragrances speak to the sophistication of their wearers, but not by being complex and well-crafted. They achieve stardom by simply being better than the norm for an age demographic that has seen its share of unimaginative garbage. High school kids are drowning in oceans of Acqua di Gio, Curve, and CK One Summer 2012. Calone, laundry musk, and overbearing citrus notes are en vogue. For those who spend their mornings doodling on binders during home room, L.12.12 Green is a big step up. For the rest of us, it's just another pleasant designer scent, of which there are many.

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