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.

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