12/15/13

Arden Men Sandalwood (Elizabeth Arden)





I recently purchased a bottle of Arden's Sandalwood cologne for men from a cute Indian girl working at a tiny brick-and-mortar here in Milford. She said she liked Connecticut, but would return to her native India in two months, presumably to go back to school or something like that (I didn't ask any further). I thought she was really sweet, but she didn't know a blessed thing about perfume. It's curious that roughly ninety-five percent of the people who get into the world of perfume retail don't know anything about perfume. Maybe I'll write more about that another time.

Meanwhile, finding the Arden Sandalwood was like finding the lost ark. This stuff is reputedly discontinued and extremely difficult to find at reasonable prices online, but from reading reviews, I'm suspicious. People are describing a reformulation, which means that either (a) EA still makes it, and has it in limited distribution, or (b) it was reformulated recently, and then discontinued not long after. Either way, the bottle I have is "new" in the sense that the box is in pristine condition - no dents, wrinkles, scratches, or color fading - but I'm pretty sure from the commercial markings (or lack thereof) that it's a somewhat older bottle - but don't quote me on that. I could care less either way, but for those of you who are obsessed with reformulations and "updates" of older colognes, just know that I'm talking about something that appears to hearken back at least four or five years.

In all actuality, Arden Sandalwood was released in 1956 or '57, and was likely one of two or three proper EDT-strength colognes available to European and American men for the remainder of that decade. Back then there weren't many fragrance releases each year, and men had far fewer options than their wives did. My guess is the wealthier, or at least upper middle-class men who could afford more than Old Spice and Acqua di Selva dropped coin on Arden Sandalwood, but I'm just speculating. Today it smells very "vintage," a scent from another era, and oh what a scent! Classified as a woody-ambery fougère, Arden Sandalwood is very much a rich lavender fougère, loaded with citrus and herbal nuances in the top and heart notes. There's a great big blast of bergamot, lavender, petitgrain, clary sage, and geranium in the top notes, which persist together for about five minutes, before the lavender separates from the pack and takes center stage.

The heart accord is lavender, sandalwood, coumarin, oakmoss, patchouli, and opoponax for some spicy sweetness. Fougères from this era often get pigeonholed into two categories, either lavender-green or ambery-biscuit, based on how coumarin is handled. Here it is treated in a very dry-ambery manner, with none of the "biscuit-like" effect. I smell opoponax and patchouli more prominently, and surprise, surprise, there's actually a vibrant labdanum note in there as well. The labdanum is extremely well blended and doesn't come across as piercing or animalic. It simply compliments the patchouli, opoponax, and sandalwood, lending the accord some additional nuance and texture. For the record, Arden Sandalwood's labdanum surpasses Guerlain Mitsouko's and Chanel 31 Rue Cambon's in both quality and temperament. Guerlain and Chanel are using synthetics - Arden is using the real stuff.

The thing to keep in mind with this cologne is that it's more than just a simple citrus-lavender-sandalwood progression. However, the sandalwood is very distinct, and upholds the fougère structure from the early heartnote phase, all the way into the basenotes, some seven or eight hours later. The lavender note sidles up to the sandalwood note early on, and the former basically conjoins itself to the latter's dry spiciness, creating a crisply aromatic smell that is too beautiful for words. Another thing to keep in mind is that this isn't your contemporary niche sandalwood note, which is usually plush, creamy, and a bit sweet. No, Arden Sandalwood is bone dry, with very minimal sweetness. Whoever designed this scent wisely played up the dryness instead of trying to hide it, and added a smoky vetiver note to the base. It's clever work, and adds to the richness. The combination of brisk lavender, sandalwood, and vetiver creates a refined, slightly outdoorsy feel. It wouldn't be out of place on a fox hunter riding through autumnal woods, nor would it be wrong on a bookworm smoking cigars in his study. Arden Sandalwood is perfect for men, any and all men, wherever they may be. One caveat: this is for men only. It's not for boys.

As far as fougères go, this is one of the best I've ever encountered, better than Azzaro PH, Third Man, Rive Gauche PH, Jazz, Caron PuH, and even my beloved Cool Water. That's saying a lot, because I really love all of those scents. But Arden Sandalwood smells natural, complex, and quite deep, deeper than many woody ferns from the same general time period. Wearing it is a pleasure, an exercise in elegant masculinity, and something every man should experience at least once in his lifetime. Finding a bottle of this for under eighty dollars is a no-brainer: buy it. I'm sure glad I did.








9 comments:

  1. Been waiting for years to pick up a bottle of this. No other review has quite sold me. Yours has!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it hadn't been such a good deal, I would not have purchased it either, based on any of the reviews, which all seem to hedge to the negative a bit, despite fair praise. Hope you like this one.

      Delete
  2. Just got this and you were oh so right! This is excellent! Can't believe I held off for so long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way. I'm kicking myself for ignoring it.

      Delete
  3. Count me among the fans of this old-school gem, which I purchased about 10 years ago for $14.99. I love the lavender in this; smells like something Sinatra would have worn in the Rat Pack years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's interesting that Arden's sandalwood is something many of us have on the cheap, when it is reputedly discontinued and now selling for upwards of $100 on the internet and in many stores. Not that it's an accurate marker of true market trends, but people are trying to get anywhere from $75 to $154 for it on Ebay. I wonder why they think they can score those prices? In truth, this is something that could easily pass as a $150 niche scent.

      Delete
  4. After reading your review I was lucky enough to find one before they sold out at my regular online store. This is just gorgeous manliness in a bottle , indeed indispensable in every man's scent arsenal!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Greetings, do you still think very highly of Arden's Sandalwood?

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment. It will be visible after approval by the moderator.