My wardrobe, as most of my steady readers already know, is rather small, although admittedly creeping up in size as the months pass. Still, it clocks in at about thirty fragrances, modest by most standards in this community. I have numerous samples and a few minis that I'm not including in that number, and most of the Al-Rehab oils (with the exception of Silver) aren't being included either. I don't count what I don't wear, and the Al-Rehabs aren't regular wearers for me. I'd say I take Silver out for a spin once or twice every couple of months. The other three almost never get out, but I will be using Fruit and perhaps Secret Man more and more as temps get warmer and spring time approaches. Meanwhile I have a steady rotation of everything else, and among those are five favorites, some interesting things I thought I'd talk about here. These aren't in any numerical order of favorability. They simply fall into the same pool of being my prized acquisitions, fragrances that I will continue wearing for the rest of my days, or until they're discontinued and disappeared, god forbid.
Pour un Homme de Caron
This fragrance is probably, among all of them, the easiest to love and wear. Pour un Homme wasn't love at first sniff for me, however. When I first tried it, I thought I'd made the biggest blind-buy mistake of all time. Its lavender is so cold and astringent on top that it smells incredibly metallic straight out of the atomizer. But that harsh intro rapidly settles into a beautiful herbal accord that is both soft and affecting, thanks to a discreet, inedible vanilla base. My overall impression of PuH is that it's a fragrance for men who wish to impart confidence and trustworthiness to others around them (read: women). I've had a couple of really attractive women compliment me while wearing this one. The ladies who respond favorably to it are likely women you'll want to hang around as much as possible. They have really good taste. Lavender is unremittingly fresh and cool, a flower in the mint family that somehow became associated with traditional American males who chop wood in the autumn, drive pick-up trucks to work, and wear blue jeans on dates with their wives. Its pairing with vanilla makes him snuggly and sexy, too. I've been through a few four ounce bottles, but I'll be upgrading to a sixteen or twenty-five ouncer soon. Disregard whining about the reformulation of this fragrance. I have an older early nineties vintage, and the balace between cool lavender and musky vanilla is almost identical to what's in my brand-new bottle. The only notable difference is a slightly skankier musk note, which actually doesn't do PuH any favors (perhaps the reason it was changed in later batches). The lavender grade used twenty, thirty, and forty years ago cannot possibly be any better than what is currently used, because the newest bottles are as natural-smelling as lavender gets. Easily the greatest lavender fragrance of all time. Pour un Homme de Caron is truly a masterpiece of modern perfumery, and something I'll always reach for.
YSL has a lot to answer for for allowing the evil empire L'Oreal to buy up its all-star perfumery division and reformulate the bulk of their classics, but thus far Kouros' structure and beauty remains intact. This is the only fragrance in my wardrobe that completely bends my mind whenever I put it on. Unlike Caron PuH, Kouros is unsettling and downright scary in its intensity and ruggedness. It isn't for the faint of heart, and it certainly isn't something to be used without a second thought. People have lost their jobs for wearing stuff half as powerful as this. I love it because it exhibits a timeless quality, despite its swagger, and never feels like an "eighties cologne" or anything like that. The brilliance of pairing citrus, costus, and wildflowers with a rich animalic base of incense and musk has never been duplicated in quite the same way, and that's what makes Kouros something I keep back-up bottles of - this stuff is, first and foremost, unique. Beautifully crafted, a true performer, and something few other guys are aware of nowadays, I'm glad to have it, and even gladder to wear it. I had a girlfriend who was a serious asshole, and she hated Kouros, which tells me that bad people will shy away from it. Well, maybe not, but one can hope. Many people think of Kouros as an autumn and winter fragrance. It has year-round versatility, more so than most masculines, because the powdery freshness it adopts in frigid temps becomes a honeyed herbal sweetness in the heat of July. I wear Kouros in August and September more than any other time of year, mainly because temps become a bit tamer, but still hover around eighty-five degrees, and the world becomes a place of burnt grass and yellow-tinged leaves. Deep down inside, somewhere in the core of every man's brain, a receptor for Kouros exists, and that nerve is Freud's Ego incarnate.
I fondly remember the day I smelled Grey Flannel for the first time. It was damp and grey outside, and kind of a "here goes the neighborhood" moment for me, as there are few fragrances that are as intimidating as this one. I'd heard a lot about it on basenotes, and read some very encouraging things in the blogosphere, but something was holding me back. I'm not sure what it was. The notion that it's a "cheap" fragrance, combined with its odd, apothecary-styled bottle may have conspired against me. But I was getting braver and braver with each blind purchase, and like the thick-headed fool I am, I went ahead and bought a satcheled bottle from a friendly acquaintance who had a wonderful perfume shop in Milford, CT, now sadly closed. I got to my car and tried it on, and was simply blown away by its beauty. To use descriptors like "gorgeous," "ravishing," "unparalleled," or "stunning" does GF no justice. This is, quite simply, the answer to every green chypre lover's prayers. If you must have a green fragrance, and have very little money in the wardrobe budget, then wear just this one. There is nothing else a man needs. Try not to let the negative press GF has recently generated on Youtube discourage you from getting this and wearing it. The guys who lambast it and call it disgusting are using fresh, contemporary compositions as their main frame of reference, and that's a skewed way of forming an opinion of any classic fragrance. You can connect dots between a forty year-old scent and a brand-new one, but the truth is that anything capable of surviving three or four decades is capable of working on any sentient man or woman. It's just a matter of faith as to whether or not people enjoy smelling it on you. I feel as though Grey Flannel is so perfectly attuned to my soul that wearing anything else often feels flat-out wrong. It's roughly two dollars an ounce, made of a terrific blend of natural and synthetic materials, still has a generous dose of real oakmoss in its formula, and would sell for $150 if sold by Parfumerie Générale.
My love for Cool Water evolved gradually over the last twenty years. Back when I was in high school I really hated it. The older formula was quite thick, cloying, and polluted with unbalanced mint and synthetic lavender notes that threatened to give me a migraine every time I smelled them. It was the very definition of a cheeseball's lounge-lizard fragrance in my view. But then Cool Water changed hands, changed formulas, and changed my mind. Now I think it's the greatest fresh aromatic of all time. Context is key, though. As a high school kid, I had no idea Green Irish Tweed existed. I'd heard of Creed in passing, and remember as a senior in high school wondering where products for this weird "Creed" brand I kept hearing about could be found. I went to private school in Connecticut, what can I say. People here dig that kind of stuff. But eighteen year-old Bryan was unable to locate Creed, and I forgot about them until sometime after I graduated from college. Then I discovered Green Irish Tweed, and realized I'd been flying blind the whole time. Without GIT, Cool Water would not exist. And without CW, most mainstream masculine fragrances from 1990 onward would also not exist. Therefore, without GIT, masculine perfumery of the last twenty-seven years would still be stuck on variations of Drakkar Noir, which arguably makes Creed's masterpiece more than just a really good perfume. But I digress; CW clearly fit into the scheme of things once GIT was appreciated, and I realized that Pierre Bourdon's gorgeous creation for Davidoff is nothing more than his EDT version of GIT. If Creed wouldn't flank, Bourdon would do it for them, and every time I wear CW I get down on my knees and thank Bourdon for allowing me to access his genius. CW is the reason Bourdon is my favorite perfumer, and I'm happy to report that the compliments I've gotten from this fragrance have been ongoing. Women young and old think it's great, and even my mother feels that "it's really wonderful." High praise, coming from her.
Paco Rabanne Pour Homme
I don't have much to say about Paco Rabanne because it's a fairly recent love affair. I was a little unsure of it when I first tried it. I really love its bright citrusy-green top note, but its transition into a woody coumarin heart accord sometimes seems a bit stilted and unnatural. Having worn it for a while now, Paco continuously wins me over with every subsequent wearing. It has gotten to the point where I see it as a viable alternative to Kouros, which is serious business. To potentially replace Kouros means you're playing in the top echelon, the big leagues, and that gets my attention. The thing that I love about Paco is that after I complete a wet shave and slap some Skin Bracer or Brut on my face, PRPH feels like the best thing to accompany the aftershave. It feels like the best thing for after a shave, period. Its woodiness gets a little creamy and soapy, and something about it reminds me of shaving cream (many other guys get the association also). It might be a little old-school, and maybe is not the first choice for a date, but when you think of suave French actors like Alain Delon and Richard Bohringer, it's easy to think they wore Paco Rabanne. I think it's unfair that Paco gets seated behind Azzaro Pour Homme in popular opinion these days. Yeah, Azzaro is great, but Paco came before, and Paco is just as great. Azzaro is by no means a replacement for anything in my collection, but discovering Paco meant discovering a new avenue for satisfying my fougère cravings in the unhappy event that Kouros gets destroyed beyond recognition. It's lovely, and a compliment-getter like everything above. I hope it stays just as good.
One final note: you may have noticed that I mention these fragrances as being compliment machines. I seem to put a lot of emphasis on the fact that women appreciate and talk about these fragrances when I wear them. You might think, "Why is he putting so much stock in that? Who cares what they think?" I could care less what women think of the above. The fact that women seem to love them is simply a bonus feature of loving them too. If pretty women like how you smell, it shouldn't be taken for granted. I've worn hundreds of fragrances, and of them, maybe twelve have garnered compliments.