Cuba (Czech & Speake)

Polarizing fragrances interest me because there's usually one group of people who interpret the scent falsely, and another that smells its whole truth. Those who are faked-out by the pyramid inevitably feel there is something wrong with it - a "bad note," or a strenuous accord, usually animalic in nature. For example, in Kouros, many smell a "urinal puck note," which they readily attribute to the civet. These folks generally don't like Kouros, and can't tolerate even a minute of it on themselves. Then there are those who smell the civet as it is integrated into a body of bergamot, honey, wildflowers, costus, vetiver, and incense. They feel the civet creates a "lift" of sorts, which keeps the citrus from becoming too flat and sour, and the earthy notes from being too down-to-earth (read: bitter, serious, remote). In other words, they smell the fun.

After Kouros, I think of none other than Cuba by C&S, as it's perhaps the one scent that is equally as polarizing. This fragrance has two camps: those who smell human feces in it, and those who don't. The feces-detectors insist there's a massive wallop of shit, which splats its filth against skin upon application, followed by some spicy notes, tobacco, and cedar, all haloed in the utterly nauseating and enduring odor of fresh slurry. The other group simply smells a gussied-up bay rum, with a nice mint note on top, and an aromatic cedar base. There's a fetid cigar tobacco note, which is very naturalistic, as if tobacco leaves are floating in the perfume. It's warm, pungent, a sweet smell, a bit animalistic, a bit humanistic, and very much of the Old World that Cuba has struggled to escape from for centuries. It's a lovely scent, and I'd be happy to own a bottle.

Give Cuba a fair chance. Eliminate the expectation of smelling crap notes from your mind. Think clean thoughts. Associate the bittersweet scent of mint, lime, tobacco, rum, bay, and cedar with a close shave, and the wonderful smell of shave soap and water. If someone sniffs the air and says, "who shit their pants?", weigh their impression against your own, and if Cuba comes up short, wear Citrus Paradisi instead. People will ask "who pissed themselves?", but it's the lesser of two evils.