Michael Kors for Men (Michael Kors)

Oud does not smell all that good. There, I said it. Jim Gehr gave me the opportunity to smell a few oud isolates and one oud blend, and none of them smelled like something I'd reach for. They didn't smell bad, they just didn't smell very good on their own. Jim has used oud to great effect, but I'm not entirely convinced that the note belongs in mainstream perfumery, and judging by Americans' reluctance to jump on the oud bandwagon, I'm not alone. Show me two or three major releases from designers that showcased oud and sold like hotcakes, and I'll show you a million dollars in bearer bonds with coupons attached.

Incense is another story. Bleu de Chanel springs to mind as a superstar frag featuring noticeable incense, although I'm beginning to think the fragrance is a common dimestore aftershave in hi-fidelity, but I'll get to that another time. There's also Body Kouros, Eau des Baux, Opium, Zirh, Obsession for Men, and Encre Noire to consider when it comes to raw, burnt, and fresh incense notes. Why has the public embraced incense? Because unlike oud, incense smells good. Oud has a pungent, rotted wood aroma with an unusual beauty in niche compositions, and takes some getting used to. Incense smells good even when it's at its most naked - see Tom Ford's Sahara Noir.

Michael Kors for Men is all about incense, and features it as bold, crisp, and slightly charred. It's a refreshing change of pace after another summer and autumn of dull-as-dishwater freshies. This "new" and updated Michael for Men was originally released last summer I believe, but suffered some unusual balance issues after only a few weeks on store shelves, putting guys off their lunch with an odd skanky note in the drydown. Kors pulled the fragrance for a couple of months and then re-released it with the chemical issue repaired. I frankly never smelled the problem, but I assume it was there for the brand to take this sort of risk.

Accompanying the smoky stuff is a solid balsamic structure of frostbitten herbs, spicy-green elemi, semisweet star anise, and sueded leather notes. It reads as a woody and rather boozy oriental, its synthetic sandalwood basenote feeling aspirational but pleasant nonetheless. My only gripe with Michael is that its suede accord begins to wrestle for attention with the incense, and after a zillion Calvin Klein and Avon frags featuring suede, it's impossible to smell it and not think "cheap." Also there's a slightly generic buzz to the top notes, as if they're made of rudimentarily assembled designer-grade materials (just slip star anise, Bang-like black pepper, and coriander together in equal measure), but whatever.

At least this fragrance is legible and attractive in an inoffensive, off the beaten path sort of way. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in incense, but if you're more interested in fresh, sheer incense notes in the vein of Bleu de Chanel and Encre Noire, try before you buy.

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