Aubusson Homme (Aubusson)

Shamu's review of this scent, on what appears to be his now-retired blog, spurred me to blind-buy Aubusson Homme. He actually did not give it the world's most favorable review, but he does like it. This snippet is what clinched the purchase for me:

"It uses green, woody, spicy and semi-sweet notes in a way that smells a lot like the late, great Balenciaga Pour Homme, only not as powerful. Both make heavy use of cinnamon and patchouli, which give both fragrances their spicy, aromatic bite. Juniper and fir needles add greenness and sharpness to Aubusson's scent . . . Fans of Balenciaga Pour Homme who can't score a bottle should definitely check this out."

Balenciaga PH is one of my all-time favorite masculines. It possesses a richness, sharpness, and full-throated luster that very few nineties frags ever had. Its orientalism is tempered by fougère-like elements, reminding me of Lapidus PH and Kouros, with a bit of artemisia-fueled woodiness in its heart that is reminiscent of Caron's Yatagan. The handling of wormwood in Balenciaga is particularly astute, with the note gently combed through the pineapple and musk accords in a manner that allows its freshness to speak for itself, while toning back its medicinal qualities. Thus there are no "celery seed" associations, as there unfortunately are with Yatagan.

Shamu feels that Aubusson PH smells quite a bit like Balenciaga PH, but doesn't like the strange "apple pie and pine needle" accord in the top notes, apparently because it smells discordant and weird, like it's trying too hard to be different. This accord doesn't smell discordant or weird to me at all. I do get a touch of apple in the first five minutes, but I think the juniper berry note is especially prominent, loud even, to the point of smelling rather fruity. Both fruity notes are generously dusted with cinnamon, which unsurprisingly creates an apple pie effect. Thanks to the hefty slug of pine, this top is not sugary or gourmand, but when you pair apples with cinnamon in any accord, the association with pie is inevitable.

I love the smell of apple pie, and also piney juniper berry, so the top of Aubusson PH is wonderful to me. There's also a very subtle mandarin citrus note in there, and an animalic musk that is markedly easier on the nose than anything in Balenciaga, or Kouros for that matter. The musk smells almost identical to the musk in Balenciaga, but smoother, and a bit more polite. The juniper, pine, and mandarin elements freshen the top up, while the apple, cinnamon, and musk lend it a warmth and earthiness that seems nicely balanced and very natural. In the first hour of wear, the weight of Aubusson is in the musky apple pie, but within twenty minutes after application, a pleasantly spicy artemisia note appears, and leads to this scent's dry-green heart of patchouli, oakmoss, labdanum, a tiny smidgen of castoreum, and sweet cyclamen. Very nice indeed. One might call it "pleasantly rich."

The drydown yields a faded variation of the heart notes, with dried pine needles, patchouli, and campfire-burned musks holding on to the ghost of fruit and cinnamon from several hours earlier. Unlike its contemporaries, Aubusson PH isn't a "powerhouse" fragrance with endless projection and sillage. It's a solid, well-crafted frag, but it gets quiet a mere hour after application, and after five hours it's virtually a skin scent. This could be the way Aubusson PH is meant to smell, very woodsy-sweet and gentlemanly in that unusual early nineties manner that fragrances like Cool Water and Polo Sport eventually killed off for good. Or it's possible the potency and balance of some notes are a little off. I bought my bottle online for fifteen dollars, expecting to receive a reformulated bottle of "new" Aubusson. But the box it came in looks like this:

I don't know about you, but I think that looks like something from the nineties. There is a barcode on the bottom flap (not pictured), so it's not something that goes back to the stone age, but barcodes came about pretty early on in the nineties, whereas abbreviated ingredients lists like the one above are relegated to pre-1996 packaging. Then again, the bottle of Vermeil for Men that I received recently had a practically nonexistent ingredients label, slapped with the barcode on the back of the packaging like it was just a price sticker. Vermeil, like Aubusson, is supposedly another small French brand dedicated solely to perfumery, so who knows? Maybe these tiny French concerns don't concern themselves with updating their packaging. There's no Aubusson website, and nothing else written about Aubusson online, so I have no way of determining whether or not this brand is still operating, defunct, or what. This PDF is the only thing I could find.

If any of my readers know more about Aubusson PH and the Aubusson brand, please comment. I'd love to hear about this company. I definitely like Aubusson PH. It DOES smell a lot like Balenciaga PH, to the point where if you were to present me with unmarked smelling strips of the two, I'd probably have a hard time telling them apart. Aubusson lacks the smoky incense note in Balenciaga, though. If Balenciaga were still in production and readily available, I'd choose it over Aubusson, but given that neither scent is hugely expensive, owning both isn't out of the question. In the absence of Balenciaga, and because it smells incredibly natural, well balanced, and very, very good, Aubusson satiates my need for a woody-fresh oriental from the early nineties, and I'll gladly wear it instead. Also, it has a really cool bottle design, boasting a sculptural combo of glass with plastic. Thumbs way up on this one.


  1. Replies
    1. I use to converse and trade with him regularly. As someone in the field of law I understand why he took a hiatus, but I find myself checking in to his site at least once a week, hoping he's back. Not yet, but something tells me he'll return. He was my main "go-to" for recommendations, as so much of what he recommended I ended up truly enjoying. At least I've still got, "From Pyrgos"!!

    2. Thanks John, I miss Pour Monsieur, and I'm thinking the "hiatus" is really a retirement. We need more blogs that focus on obscure but worthwhile masculine fragrances, and Shamu's is excellent.


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