Z-14 From 06-14: Back To The Future

Halston's masterpiece has again endured reformulation, although this most recent formula is a return to the Z-14 of seven or eight years ago, at a marginally lighter concentration, with no dramatic change to the scent itself. I've owned four bottles of Z in the last ten years: one from 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014, the last purchased a few weeks ago at Marshalls for $12. The code on the bottom reads "4HJ1," and checkcosmetic.net cites its production date as June of last year.

Internet chatter about this fragrance has declined in recent years. Last summer there was a thread about its variances over four decades, with many guys predictably lamenting the removal of oakmoss from the formula, and some even lamenting the removal of vetiver, which is a note that never really jumped out at me, not even in the 2002 formula, which did have a very slight vetiver note, but only the faintest suggestion of it. I actually got more of a "wet tobacco" note in that version, along with an intense cinnamon aldehyde explosion in the top notes. That was my first experience with Z-14, and I disliked it so much that I tossed it in the garbage.

My subsequent bottles revealed extremely subtle variances in the scent, with the overall fragrance almost 100% identical in each, barring mild shifts in focus between oakmoss, treemoss, aldehyde, and lavender. I chalk up the hugely unbalanced cinnamon bomb in the 2002 bottle as being the result of deterioration rather than reformulation. The 2008 batch contains smooth lavender and a distinct oakmoss effect in the drydown, but often smells a bit too bright, as if the mosses were given their own aldehyde. The 2011 batch contains a smidge less lavender and only treemoss, which I prefer by a slight margin. The difference is very small, but the treemoss is drier, darker, and the aldehydic effect is toned down, making the wearing experience starker and not quite as "fresh." The 2014 returns to the fizzy shimmer of the 2008 batch, with infinitesimally more lavender and a drop of extra aldehyde, but the concentration has been somewhat reduced here, to the point where it really does perform like a cologne rather than an EDT. It's gone in two hours, unless very liberally applied, which is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, I like that it's not as apt to offend anyone with its intense piney citrus notes. This quieter Z-14 has low throw, which makes it office friendly. On the other hand, if they dial the concentration back any more, the scent will disappear altogether. Might as well just release it as aftershave and forget calling it a cologne. I doubt they'll tamper with the concentration any more, but one thing I love about it is that the smoothness of the herbal effects in the 2008 batch is reiterated, yet smells rebalanced and more successful in the lighter juice.

I've read that the 2014 batches contain intense cinnamon, but I smell no more or less cinnamon in the 2014 formula. The cinnamon in the 2011 batch is a little "flatter" than the same note in the 2014, which is a bit more textured, but again, that can be considered the effects of age and freshness. To my nose, the cinnamon note is dosed the same in the 2008, 2011, and 2014 formulas. The bergamot and pine notes are very fresh in the newest bottle, and the lemon aldehyde is clearly derived from citrus. The 2014 batch is definitely a natural-smelling "woody citrus" scent. I was a little disappointed, because I hoped the cinnamon would be more intense. I guess if I want a cinnamon fix I'll have to stick with Individuel.

I highly recommend the latest version, but be warned that it's subtler than prior versions of Z-14. If you were a fan of Z-14's formula from roughly ten years back, you'll probably enjoy the newest version quite a bit. This fragrance continues to smell like one of the more natural compositions still on the market, a combination of outdoorsy notes that play off themselves and complement each other beautifully, despite the formula being largely synthetic and dirt-cheap. It's just too bad EA never thought to make this stuff in a perfume concentration, and call it "Z-14 Now Intense." That would probably smell incredible.


  1. I purchased my bottle of Z-14 in early 2017 as part of a gift set with matching aftershave on discount at CVS (Post-Christmas closeout). My code is 6FA1. Your description of the 2014 bottle pretty much matches what I've encountered, though I don't have any direct experience with the past versions. I only have a vague sense that someone I knew back when I was a kid wore this, because the scent profile was familiar to me (it reminds me of the Sienna scent from Crabtree & Evelyn and a lesser extent, the discontinued "Cooling Blue" aftershave from Skin Bracer). I guess that's what I like about it, it makes me think of things I thought were cool when I was a kid.. leather jackets, the velvet posters in the back of Kaleidoscope (a Spencers-type store), the leather chairs in the cool basement bar at my cousin's where we would sit and drink root beers like we were kings..

    1. Glad you enjoy this fragrance! Whenever I smell Z14, I actually imagine that this is what the 1970s smelled like in general. Rich wafts of pine, dry citrus, semi-sweet spices, patchouli, moss, tobacco, and musk, musk, musk. Virtually every photograph of Roy Halston has him holding a "light" cigarette, and it's funny to think of him bustling around his workshop and being stopped by an assistant with samples of Z14 and 1-12. I can just hear him: "Oh my god, I don't know, I just don't know, tell them they're both fabulous, and forget about naming them, it's not like anyone will care when they smell them, will they?"

    2. Bricklayercake - I picked my gift set of the 4 oz. cologne and aftershave for $11 or $12 after all the stacked coupon codes when Target had their 2017 Cyber Monday sale. The code on my cologne bottle is the same as yours 6FA1, which according to Checkcosmetic.net is a May. 2016 bottle. The code on the aftershave is 6JA1. I agree with Bryan about the performance. I have aftershaves that are stronger than the current cologne. I think the Z-14 aftershave splash lasts almost as long as the cologne. The cologne projects for about the first hour and then settles into a skin scent for a few hours - unless you spray your shirt. Then it projects for an extra hour. There seems to be no trace left of it on the arms (if one sprays there) after 5 hours.

      This version is not the cinnamon bomb I sprayed from a Z-14 tester in Marshalls. I'm sorry I didn't check the batch code on that one.

  2. As I was ordering Shalimar edc and after years of delaying, I finally pulled the trigger on 8 fl. oz. of Z-14. The batch code "n19y25a" puts its production date in 2019 (no month specified). It's made in the USA.
    Reading your review of the 2014 version, I can gladly report that they amped it up slightly. I've got around 4 hours of projection before it turns into a skin scent, which is quite acceptable for a cologne strength fragrance.

    Having never smelled it before and considering my limited knowledge, I'd roughly place it somewhere between GBH Red and Quorum. The good news is that, not only do I enjoy it more than both, I find Z-14 to be still relevant today, while Red and Quorum simply feel dated to me (this I know may cause heresy to some).

    Reading your excellent review, I'm guessing that the little tree moss that was left in the 2014 version has now completely been removed from the formula. The lack of heavy moss may well be outrageous to those who knew the vintage version, my unfamiliarity howbeit, only underlines the old adage that "ignorance is bliss", as such my current version doesn't feel like it's lacking or improperly balanced.

    It's no wonder that Tom Ford took great inspiration from Z-14 for his Italian Cypress. With his usual business 'flair' he rightfully deducted that ditching the outdated brown glass bottle and pairing it with both a fancier sounding name and higher price tag, would equate into another successful release.

    Contrary to the harsher, more aggressive olfactory assault I usually undergo from scents containing 'Pine tree', cypress on the other hand still is able to convey a 'pine-like' feeling but in a much tamer, sweeter and overall well-rounded experience while simultaneously still preserving enough of that green outdoorsy freshness.
    As such it can be no coincidence that, although missing in Z-14's scent pyramid, I get a subtle yet clearly distinguishable 'mint' top note.

    All in all, I'm quite happy I finally have it in my collection.

    1. Mint top note? Very interesting. I'll have to wear it tomorrow and see if I get that impression, now that you've mentioned it. It's curious for me because as I read your comment I realized that I can actually see that being the case. There is a hint of a green "freshness" in the top notes that goes beyond citrus and aldehydes. I've never fully acknowledged it before. If it is indeed mint, that would be amazing. Thanks for the tip.

      Z-14 is a fragrance that readers of my reviews should consider on an olfactory curve. The reality is that it's an incredibly powerful fragrance - "powerhouse" status applies to it directly. So even though with newer formulas I talk about about attenuated concentrations/longevity, the reality is that the baseline for Z is somewhere between "nuclear" and "armageddon." So the 2014 formula in a milder cologne concentration still kicks twice as hard as a sturdy EDT with around 5 hrs longevity (and 5 feet of throw). You can expect it to perform very, very well. Not much needed upon application. Vintage should have a little warning on its label of course.

      There's a timelessness to it that you've noticed, and which is particular to Z-14. Halston embraced the Italian barbershop theme with this fragrance, thinly disguising it as a "warm" club scent, when in reality it's a mossy-herbal wetshaver scent. It reminds me of things like Aqua di Selva and Pino Silvestre. And for all the hand-wringing about the cinnamon note, Big Red gum, etc, it's pretty much all in peoples' heads.


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