Tabac (Mäurer & Wirtz)

Somone once called Tabac "Chanel N°5 for men," and rather poetically added that it smelled "divine." Of course, having been a Bolshevik in my former life, my mind immediately jetted off to Eastern Europe, and roamed the black-forested hills of Russia, the mountain towns of Lithuania, the former Czechoslovakia's golden fields of mustard and rape. Wings of Desire, or Der Himmel über Berlin,the famous Franco-German motion picture directed by none other than Düsseldorf's Wim Wenders, also comes to mind. I can attest to the bleakness of life for Soviet-satellite nations only second-hand, having strolled on ankle-thin cement sidewalks between hulking cement behemoths holding upwards of six-hundred families in their colorless bowels. Naturally these are post-communist memories, and I've never been to Germany, but I have witnessed the fatalistic stoicism of a people so accustomed to repression as to expect it despite their hard-won freedoms.

The beauty of the Polish, the Czechs, the Slovaks, is their casual understanding of the universe; the great unknown, as they seem to see it, is where we're all headed, and you might as well toke on a Djarum Black and walk your dog and ignore the impulse to substitute classical music for the din of rush hour traffic. God is another excuse for letting your emotions get away from you, and why bother talking to him through the tears when you can create something, save something, and move someone all by yourself? Eastern Europeans work hard. I mean hard. Harder than any American, possibly harder than the Chinese and Japanese, and to date I've yet to see another people who consider a twelve-hour day "short," or commute four hours a day without a second thought. There's no shortcut in a catch-up culture. Everyone has to pay their dues, and keep paying until they're dead or broke.

Háje, Praha

Tabac, probably the European equivalent of Old Spice, is what repressed people wore when their leaders were cordoning off their communities with cement walls and barb-wire fences. You might think, having never tried it, that it must smell weak, simple, without resource as a product of those with very limited resources. In fact, it's just the opposite. Tabac smells rich, smooth, complex, and very, very good. Prior to acquiring my little bottle I had no idea what to expect, and hadn't really done much reading on it. I spritzed some on my wrist, and what a surprise! It's a citrus chypre! And it's unisex! The top notes are loaded with aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, lavender, and a big spicy carnation that feels pink and clean and peppery-fresh. A powdery amber sets in later, lending this heady construct some warmth, with hints of sandalwood and rose. An approximation of tobacco is loosely achieved via the thoughtful combination of amber and moss, with just a touch of pine contrasting the sweeter floral notes. The result: divine indeed.

Despite its many virtues, Tabac is not what I consider easy to love. Its citrus is big, its floral notes are very heady, and its woody-mossy underbelly is crudely unapologetic. One could speculate that the construct was calibrated to mask bodily odors, which isn't far-fetched when you consider the days of public bath houses in diesel-fumigated city squares (had I been there, Tuesday and Thursday would have been my preferred "bathing days"). Perhaps a point of comparison would help - Boucheron Pour Homme is more refined, but the same basic storyline of rich citrus and floral notes is there to be had. It certainly sits on the same branch of the olfactory family tree. This review is of Tabac's Eau de Cologne concentration.


  1. Hi Bryan,
    Thank you for another excellent little essay.
    Have you, by any chance, tested the EDT formulation? If you have, is it true that it's totally different from the EDC?

    1. Haven't tried the EDT, for two reasons: it's harder to find, and word on the street says the EDC is miles better & a completely different experience.

  2. Thank you for having replied.
    I'm hoping the EDT (described by some as slightly smokier than the EDC) lasts longer / projects better.
    Best :-)

  3. Love the EDC probably one of my favourite barbershop scents. I personally find the EDT excellent as well. Yes it's completely different but well worth checking out imo. I find it to be even more tobacco verging on a powerhouse and less flowery and smooth.

  4. Far from any intention to spoil the introduction or to tread on your toes, but »Tabac Original«, which you actually refer to, is a (if not the) post-war classic from West-Germany (Mäurer+Wirtz are based in Cologne). It has nothing to do with the countries east of the iron curtain.
    From the 1950s way into the 1970s, »Tabac Original« was as omnipresent in West Germany as Pino Silvestre was in Italy during that time. You may consider it the fragrance backdrop of the "Wirtschaftswunder". You will still find it in the lower shelf of every drugstore and perfume shop, right next to Old Spice.
    I vaguely remember that there was a comparatively unrefined, smelly aftershave labelled »Tabak« in the GDR, made by then nationally-owned company Florena (now part of the huge Beiersdorf empire) and completely different from the West German fragrance. Note the difference in spelling btw.: Tabak is proper German orthography, while M+W went for Tabac, presumably to give their product some urbane aura which would stand out in petty-bourgeois post-war Germany.


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