Royall Muske (Royall Lyme Bermuda)

The brilliant post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin lived a fantastic life, full of contrasts, exotic adventure, and darkness. His biography could have been penned by Thor Heyerdahl, so packed is it with lusty exploits and read-it-to-believe-it failures of character, a true hooligan's daydream writ large. Whenever I stand before a Gauguin, I feel the Tahitian heat shimmering off the canvas, hear the island chatter in the air, unintelligible but still meaningful, and smell the naked skin of the native women as it wafts through the rushes. I tend to imagine their skin as a little sweaty - and frankly, dirty - washed only by briny salt water, sometimes adorned by simple jewelry of bone and dried spices. It's not hard to understand their allure, these women of French Polynesia, despite their 19th century island hygiene and questionable age; men are men, and they respond to natural pheromones secreted by skin (even through years of sand, salt, and dirt), and oily hair. This human musk, commingling with simple spices, is sure to be intoxicating. Enough to stay away from civilization and slip into decadent obscurity, to die alone with little more than an unfinished winterscape of home on your easel.

When slipped into this context, the idea behind Royall Muske is uncomplicated but compelling, as it's just a sweet, nicely-rendered musk, with a faint touch of spice in the far periphery. It suffers a bit from excessive soapiness, especially in its first few minutes, and almost becomes a handsoap formula, but its balance and strong presence gives it a finer feel. The musk powders sweetly, clings to skin, and takes on a vague barbershop quality, before fading away. There isn't much complexity or movement beyond the one-step, but it smells good, and with the island allusions that accompany this brand, is capable of transporting the wearer to someplace southeast of wherever he may be. Don't wear Royall Muske as a serious signature cologne, but do give it a splash every now and then during the winter months, to relieve your seasonal affective disorder. Following that thought, I'd say it also goes well with a Malibu bay breeze and a copy of Fatu Hiva.

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