Al-Rehab "Silver" Alcohol-Free Concentrated Perfume Oil (Crown Perfumes)

If Creed could be said to operate on the law of negative returns, then Al-Rehab, which is a trademark of Crown Perfumes, operates on bending the laws of all known returns, much as a high-quality prism bends and refracts the dullness of white light into a full-color spectrum. The feat of their magnificence isn't recognized in the quality of their products, but rather in what they charge for them: next to nothing. It's more expensive to purchase a bottle of Aqua Velva at Walmart than to buy a 6 ml roll-on of Al-Rehab perfume oil. With Aqua Velva, you get what you pay for, and not less. With Al-Rehab, you get more. Much, much more.

What amuses me to no end on internet fragrance forums is the collective need to "cheat Creed." People are always looking for a way around dropping hundreds of dollars on a Creed perfume, and they usually do it by finding a designer scent that duplicates the overall scent profile of a Creed at a lower cost. An obvious example of this is the Cool Water/Green Irish Tweed situation. Mont Blanc's Individuel has been accused on more than one occasion of being exactly the same as Original Santal. Paco Rabanne XS is, by many accounts, a better deal than Himalaya. And Mugler Cologne has no business being copied by Original Vetiver.

People's preferences are their own, and far be it from me to tell anyone what to like and not like (I review fragrances on the assumption that anyone bothering to read me cares what I think); we can only wear what we enjoy, and avoid what we don't. But it's pointless to kid one's self into believing a designer (or inexpensive niche) frag is capable of matching a Creed in quality and complexity. Even if its pyramid is fuller than the Creed's (Cool Water against GIT again), the quality of ingredients in Creed perfumes are such that individual aroma chemicals are multi-faceted, yielding their own vague "off" notes, their own facets. The depth of their compositions is not easy to match.

Many in the internet community of fragrance lovers find Al-Rehab Silver to be a dead-ringer for Silver Mountain Water, and it's very interesting because the believers are even more ardent than any of the staunchest Cool Water and Individuel fans. They don't think this smells "like" SMW - they think it smells EXACTLY like SMW. Any difference is negligible, detectable to only the most acutely sensitive nose. To quibble with the usual Creed sticker shock is criminal in the face of Al-Rehab Silver's existence, or so they suggest. This is, by many accounts, a surefire replacement for Olivier's signature scent. Look no further to smell like a Creedie.

How do I feel about all this? What do I think of the comparison? More to the point, what do I think about Al-Rehab Silver? I think the whole thing is a little overblown, but I say a little, not a lot. Quality of ingredients is not quite up to par with Creed (their Givaudan cassis-tea accord is far from easy to duplicate), and complexity is lacking, as Silver is rather linear, and SMW is not. That said, the quality of ingredients is nevertheless shockingly high, given what it costs for a 6 ml roll-on perfume oil. Three dollars? This is amazing. You could go tens times higher and still have room for price-gouging. Silver smells vibrant, alive, multi-dimensional, especially in its first five minutes on skin. I don't know how they did it, and more to the point, I don't know how they did it with inexpensive synthetics, but it's no small feat of technical wizardry, that's for sure.

How to compare? SMW opens with a crisp 7-Up citrus pop, bolstered by sweet blackcurrant and a bitter mineral/metallic accord. Depending on batch, it can either smell very citrusy and tea-forward, or very sweet and berry-strong. Eventually, SMW's synthetic element, that cold metallic thing, begins to separate into more decipherable components, yielding notes of mint, musk, petit grain, neroli, sandalwood, and ambergris. Blackcurrant stays the course, but gets very dark and "inky" before fading away. The fragrance remains sheer, sparkly, and fresh for the duration of its lifespan. It's pleasant and unique at all times, and there isn't a whole lot out there that aptly compares to it.

Al-Rehab's take is nearly identical for about five minutes. The top is a magnificent dance of lemon, blackcurrant, tea, and something metallic and redolent of hairspray. It's criminally close to SMW for this limited period of time, and all the better for it. Once that first pop subsides, things become significantly less remarkable, and diverge greatly from the Creed. The blackcurrant strengthens, nearly eclipsing the tea and the metal, and becomes almost cloyingly sweet, although it never quite crosses the line. For a good three hours, there's isn't much else to be had. If you're not wild about blackcurrant, you're not going to love this. Fortunately the tea note is just strong enough to balance things, and the metallic vibe fades in and out during the drydown, reminding me of the unique and indescribably modern characteristics to this type of fragrance.

Hints of sweet musk, just a little skanky, and the vaguest hint of jasmine accompany the far drydown, and to Silver's credit it remains fresh and well-made to the very end. If you're someone who appreciates this scent profile (Tommy Girl by Hilfiger is yet another option), but don't want to commit to something as egregiously expensive as Silver Mountain Water, then Al-Rehab's concentrated oil is the way to go. Aside from SMW, it does not get any better than this, and since SMW isn't a hugely popular fragrance, those who smell Silver on you won't have a clue that you're sporting a Creed clone. You're doing everyone a favor by sporting a great one. And if you insist on considering perfume an art form, it bears mentioning that some of France's greatest art forgers command incredible levels of respect from critics and collectors alike, so there's not necessarily any shame in flagrant imitation.

But if you're someone who truly loves this kind of scent, appreciates all the fragrances that cover its territory, but still feel that only the best will do, Silver Mountain Water is, in the bitter end, still superior, and still worth the money. It has suffered from batch variations in recent years, and isn't quite as reliable as it used to be (am I getting more berries, or more tea this time?), but its design is flawless, its execution is unparalleled, and its originality is a trait that can never be taken away. Silver is what happens when a talented nose wishes to pay homage to such greatness without sacrificing the integrity of his product. While it's not exactly a winning battle, I can certainly respect the effort, and the end result.