Brut Actif Blue (Fabergé / Helen Of Troy)

This fragrance is still in production, but is labeled simply "Brut Blue" now, for whatever reason. I don't fully understand the marketing behind any of the Brut products, if you can even call it marketing, and I suppose that when Idelle Labs finally sells the line to someone else, we'll see a big change-up in advertising. The current marketing strategy is an almost comical attempt to bury the brand six feet under. It's a shame, because I see the Brut line as something that possesses incredible sex appeal. These fragrances are the sort of thing that women and men are drawn to.

I vaguely remember Actif Blue in the mid nineties, probably shortly before it was discontinued. It was in drugstores next to regular Brut, and my local CVS had it going for around nine or ten dollars, even back then. In retrospect that was expensive, but I've realized that Blue was Fabergé's one and only attempt to copy Davidoff Cool Water. It was one of the earliest clones, having been released in 1994. What else can I say? It smelled fairly pedestrian (still does - I gave it another whirl the other day), but not bad, fresh, but not "aquatic," masculine, but not butch, and rather sweet, which put it squarely in sync with the zeitgeist of its era.

You really have to be cash-strapped (or careless) to spring for Brut Blue today, when Cool Water is only ten dollars more, and of considerably better quality. Nevertheless, some men really don't care, and there are plenty of high school and college dudes who would rather drop that Hamilton on a case of beer than a cologne. Financial circumstances aside, buying, owning, and wearing Actif Blue or its current glass bottle incarnation doesn't hurt anyone. Despite its cheapness, it smells good. Sure, if fuzzes out after forty-five minutes into a nondescript green apple and white musk accord of little distinction, and you'll never win an award for originality wearing it, but it smells crisp, clean, masculine, and approachable. It's pretty good stuff for the money.

Another congener for the same price is Aspen for Men by Coty, which I personally prefer for its clever use of wintergreen and pine sap notes, but I guess there are reasons to favor the more lavender-forward Blue. When you look at what's available to women in the ten dollar range, you find that most of their "body sprays" are awful in comparison, sloppy syrups of shrill floral aldehydes, ethyl-maltol, and fake fruit esters that I wouldn't give to anyone over the age of ten. While thrifty guys may sacrifice uniqueness in the fragrance department, our options are considerably better, and Actif Blue remains a respectable one.

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