8/23/14

Joint Pour Homme (Roccobarocco)



I happened across Roccobarocco's Joint recently, and owning it has clarified a few things for me. It's a favorite of someone I know, and it is something held up as a bit of a masterpiece in the world of vintage masculines. To read about it, one would think that Joint defines the superiority of vintage perfumes over reformulations and recent releases, particularly niche releases. I expected it to be very heavy and deep for the duration of its presumably long lifespan on my skin, but I also expected its strength to be a product of unbalanced accords, due to its age. I was slightly wrong.

It begins with a gorgeous array of accords, but it's obvious from the very first moment that it's a clone of Zino by Davidoff. The resemblance is undeniable and the treatment of lavender in both fragrances is the same. The late eighties and early nineties saw the rise of the "dusky" lavender note in masculine perfumes, a sort of super-soapy, slightly toasted herbal blend that smells incredibly burly and aromatic. It is present in Zino, Joint, and Vermeil for Men. It's also present in Kouros (perhaps one of the first to showcase it) and Lapidus Pour Homme. This type of lavender is always highly blended with other rich aromatics, usually patchouli, rosewood, tobacco, artemisia, orris, sandalwood, and a variety of animalic musks. Joint possesses all of these notes, in conjunction with the dusky, burly lavender. For an even clearer idea of how this lavender smells in isolation from this kind of tightly aromatic blend, I recommend trying vintage Bleu Marine by Pierre Cardin. Time has wasted most of the aromatics in that one, likely because the materials used for its construction were cheaper naturals, but the sole remaining "power note" in Bleu's pyramid is lavender.

Like Zino, Joint quickly becomes dark and dry, its excellent note separation yielding various textures of Sicilian lemon, civet, honey, sage, castoreum (more vanillic than animalic), tobacco, rosewood, coumarin, vetiver, orris, sandalwood, labdanum, rose, coriander, cardamom, caraway, frankincense, opoponax, carnation, and amber. Although I can detect each of these elements in the mix, the notes that really stand out and dominate the body of the scent are lavender, honey, tobacco, rosewood, sandalwood, labdanum, and amber. The lemon, lavender, coumarin, and civet give the extended intro a decidedly "fougeriental" feel, a definite hybridization of fern and spicy amber facets. Eventually, after thirty minutes, the woods become smoother and more pronounced, and the whole thing begins to smell like a cross between Zino and Vermeil for Men. I'm impressed by the beauty of these accords, and by their relatively natural effect, as nothing smells particularly chemical or crass, although there is an obviously synthetic edge to the woods. Despite that, it's a very nice scent.

My enlightenment occurs at the forty-five minute mark, when something interesting occurs: Joint suddenly loses focus and balance. It's as if someone suddenly deflated its big red balloon. The woods begin to fuzz out, rather severely, and the tobacco slips away. The vanillic castoreum, which smells like the processed food flavoring in high concentration, suddenly defines the amber, and a semisweet blush of nondescript earthiness is washed out by a honey-like white musk. At this point it's clear that two things have influenced past assessments of Joint. One, the fragrance is shockingly top heavy, to the point where it's almost as if the top notes are the fragrance in full, extended in concentration alone. Indeed, that initial spray is so intense and loud and full of complementary materials that one could only expect it to last well into the heart phase, but that heart barely exists. Once the juice has mixed with natural skin oils, its dissipation occurs, and the power goes out.

The second issue is that time has effected the balance of the fragrance. Joint has been out of production for twenty years, and my bottle is likely that old, if not older. For anyone to say that this fragrance is a good example of how rich and natural and powerful vintage designer masculines can be negates the prime effect of degradation that has obviously occurred here. Does my bottle of Joint smell very good? Yes. As such, one could argue that it has not "turned" or "gone bad," but there's a better definition of those terms - the fragrance is no longer balanced, and no longer smells exactly as it should. In this case, the drydown was effected instead of the top notes, which is certainly atypical of vintage degradation, but is still degradation nonetheless. Also there's the question of whether this weakened, somewhat off balance drydown and sub-par longevity can be excused by the brilliance of the first few minutes. Although it's clear that Joint is a lovely composition, it's also clear that it's derivative, and doesn't add much to the genre of burly tobacco-themed scents from its period. Zino is better, in my opinion, and can still be had for much less money. Vermeil is also better, and also much cheaper, and it's arguably the best of the three.

Based on my experience with Joint, I continue to believe that some (not all) lovers of vintage perfumes live in a deeply-rooted and psychologically complex state of denial about the true quality and value of vintage fragrances. I can't help but wonder if their noses are simply not attuned to detecting when notes have gone stale, or when whole accords have flattened and weakened and ruined structural balance and longevity. These changes are often subtle and can perhaps be intentionally overlooked in favor of enjoying whatever remains, but as with other vintages, such deterioration is clearly present in this fragrance. It's still wearable, and still performs fairly well considering its age, but it definitely doesn't smell the way it did fifteen years ago.

Joint can be had in 1 oz and 1.7 oz sizes on Ebay for under $40 (the 1 oz is currently $29.99), and that's exactly what it's worth in my opinion. I paid $33 for my 1.7 oz bottle, which I bought at a brick and mortar shop in CT. If it weren't for the technically advanced skillfulness of its blend and the high quality of its materials, I'd find fault with anyone claiming it's worth owning at all. But given that its structure is, at least for most of an hour, quite good and memorable, I'd say that fans of this sort of darkly animalic gentlemen's club scent should consider $35 for Joint money well spent.





2 comments:

  1. "Based on my experience with Joint, I continue to believe that lovers of vintage perfumes live in a deeply-rooted and psychologically complex state of denial about the true quality and value of vintage fragrances." Always a pleasure to read you, Bryan! ;-)

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    Replies
    1. Good to hear from you, Sher! Last I checked you hadn't posted in a while on your blog. Was wondering what happened to you.

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