Balenciaga Pour Homme (Balenciaga)

The simple French tagline reads: "Balenciaga Pour Homme: The Power of Dreams". It reminds me of the slogan for Lapidus Pour Homme, "L'Instant D'Eternite," or, "The Instant of Eternity". And also the commercial quip for one of Gerard Anthony's early works, Azzaro Pour Homme: "A Fragrance for Men Who Love Women Who Love Men." These broad-shouldered, square-jawed masculine aromatics had cool posters, smooth taglines, and beautiful bottles. It's strange to think that people got so fed up with powerhouses that they sacrificed their coolness and swagger to smell like Acqua di Gio. 

When it comes to Balenciaga's famous ambery oriental for men, I have good news and bad news, starting with the good: Balenciaga Pour Homme is "find-able." Look online, Google it, and you'll come up with numerous one ounce bottles, and 4 ml. minis, all for reasonable prices. My favorite local brick and mortar shop recently stocked up on fifteen of the minis, which look brand new. This means, of course, that Balenciaga might be experimenting with small bottles to see if they sell, before committing to a major re-release in standard sizes. If so, that's really exciting, because this fragrance has been off the market for a while, and aficionados want it back.

The bad news, sadly, is that nothing is confirmed, and speculation alone is not enough to raise the dead. The small bottles are reasonable, but not exactly cheap. And a comeback for Balenciaga would be odd, given that fresher fragrances are still en vogue. It's hard to imagine that a strong aromatic oriental, loaded with leathery patchouli, strident lavender, coriander, cedar, and artemisia, would become popular again. Then there's the fact that the minis smell old-school, loaded with natural materials, with no shortcuts taken. Is this the real Balenciaga? Yes, but is it the old Balenciaga, or a recently updated version? Hard to say, but there are some longevity issues with its heart stage, so I'm thinking it's the original. This suggests that Balenciaga has no intention of re-releasing. But one can dream.

The fragrance is beautiful, a stunning portrait of artemisia, nicely framed by brisk snatches of bergamot and lime, hints of spice, and a resounding incense accord that explores a profane pleasure buried deeply under sacred urns. I can almost smell the burled walnut pews, with smoke baked into their knots, as I kneel before this poisonous deity to pray. Patchouli lightens the load and adds a touch of sweetness, while tonka and sandalwood maintain a balance between an overbearingly macho smell, and something truly gentlemanly. I'm reminded of Caron's Yatagan, with its brusque wormwood and dry pine notes, but the softness of amber underscores this perfume, and is distinctly absent from the older chypre (which hurts it, by the way).

Gerard Anthony is a very talented man. While working for Azzaro, he brought the world its first refined aromatic fougère, and then in 1990 he topped that with Balenciaga. We should start buying the minis, the one ounce bottles, and show the company that we remember its former greatness, this knock-out of a perfume that is only matched by Kouros and Lapidus (and the latter not so much). Gentleman, if we don't take this resurgence in Balenciaga stock seriously, we may send the wrong message, and inspire more years of weak, synthetic drivel. That would be the power of nightmares.