10/13/13

Claiborne Sport (Liz Claiborne)



Jean-Claude Delville is not a major household name in the fragrance community, yet his work is fairly ubiquitous - he is the nose behind Clinique Happy, the masculine and feminine Wings for Giorgio, Organza Indecence by Givenchy, Cabotine by Gres, and Lucky You for Men. He's also responsible for Claiborne's little-known fresh fougère from 1997, Claiborne Sport.

I generally find Liz Claiborne products to be low-quality and disappointing. I've had Claiborne clothing literally fall apart, right on my body. Their signature masculine has always been nasal-searing and synthetic to me. So I approached Claiborne Sport with low expectations, inspired solely by this Fragrantica review:
"This is not really 'green,' but rather smells like wine, most likely due to the amber and spices, which simulate a 'dark' fruity quality, as well as the tomato leaf. This is rather dry and just a little sweet. It's reasonably natural smelling and it has a mild woody 'backbone.' Overall, this is rather interesting, and not that far from a niche idea."
The fragrance is a pleasant surprise. What strikes me first about Claiborne Sport is that it actually smells fairly natural, considering its price-point ($13 for 3.4 ounces). I'm not saying it's the work of an all-natural perfumer, not by any means, but there are clear, easily separable notes, which all smell pretty much like whatever they're meant to be - in this case a sturdy arrangement of citrus, spice, lavender, tomato leaf, hawthorn, sage, coumarin, and amber. The top accord is a burst of lemon and bergamot, very sharp and somewhat "grey," as is the tendency of inexpensive citruses, but it very quickly segues into a well-balanced lavender/coriander accord. Within five minutes the coriander is gone, the lavender intensifies (it's basically a laundry-soap lavender, but it smells good), and tomato leaf, sage, ginger, and coumarin combine forces to convey a pleasant herbal-green feeling for several hours.

The drydown is clean, mostly soapy lavender, a dry tannin-like fruity element, cedar and amber. The "wine-like" quality mentioned by the other reviewer is probably attributable to a subtle blackcurrant note, which is quietly blended in with the herbs, and imparts a bitter, semi-metallic fruitiness. Nothing earth-shaking, but still strikingly well-balanced, and amiable enough to wear without regret. Still, there are a couple of small points about Claiborne Sport that I feel I have to make: first, and despite all the embellishments, this is a clever adaptation of Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein, except that unlike other Eternity-inspired fragrances (like Cuba Paris Grey, for instance), this fragrance does a few of its own little twists in mid-air before diving into the shallow end of the familiar. I'm reminded of Eternity in the first ten minutes of wearing Sport, but don't expect to smell like Eternity for the duration of the drydown. Things change. Delville uses a deftly-dosed Calone note to freshen up some of the heart notes, which lends the composition sweetness and strength. The blackcurrant and hawthorn notes that follow create a smooth, almost leathery fruitiness that is not present in Eternity, but perhaps more reminiscent of Creed's Green Valley, or even Dior's Fahrenheit.

Second, and with the exception of the Calone note, Sport smells classier and much more natural than it needs to. What's interesting about Eternity for Men is just how synthetic it smells - the lavender/amber accord is clear and pleasantly rich, but nowhere close to natural. Cuba Paris Grey and Claiborne Sport both use synthetics that feel fresher, airier, and gentler than those of their template, and in Sport's case the ingredients are on par with those of Fahrenheit, albeit at a lower concentration. This gives the impression (probably an illusion) of naturalness. The use of coriander, tomato leaf, and ginger is an attempt to differentiate Sport from its congeners, but because Claiborne's lavender is so pervasive (like Eternity's), the familiar nature of Sport endures, and you feel like you've smelled this composition, or at least something like it, a dozen times before. Despite that, I actually like Claiborne Sport, and I appreciate its spicy-fresh characteristics. If you're going to draw from the success of major masculines, it helps if your formula smells as good as, if not better than the competition. In that regard, this fragrance is a success.







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