Alain Delon, "AD Classic" (Art & Fragrance)

Alain Delon's signature scent for men is another in a long list of examples of how people get all screwed up over minor changes in product packaging. Back in the early eighties, when this fragrance was still new, the box and bottle simply read "Alain Delon." Then, twenty-five years and a dozen fragrances later, they added the word "classic" in small print.

What follows is typical. A division of camps occurs, with invisible lines drawn in the sand: the "original" fragrance, WITHOUT the word "classic," is the best, while the newly-packaged version is a pale imitation that doesn't bear further attention from connoisseurs. How does this happen in the connoisseur's mind? Easy. He believes that instead of just adding "classic" to the product to remind older buyers (and inform newcomers) that this was indeed Delon's first foray into the world of perfume, the manufacturers opted to spend thousands of additional dollars in overhauling the formula, so that they could also make their assertion to customers a blatant lie. This is the sort of cynicism that reigns supreme in the world of fragrance enthusiasts, it seems. Very sad.

I'm here to tell you that a good friend of mine has had this perfume for the better part of two decades, and it says "classic" on the bottle. The reviews on Fragrantica date back no further than five years, yet many of them claim the version with "classic" is crap compared to the "non-classic" version. Hop on Ebay, and you'll find that the original packaging isn't available, yet the "classic" version is being billed by merchants as "rare," and worth three figures. (As an aside, I'd say it's only worth twenty bucks an ounce, tops.) What's the truth here? I think the version with "classic" printed on it is the same fragrance as the older stuff, but if it was released in the last few years, it may smell a bit softer than the vintage stuff. Times have changed, after all. Heady wormwood fougères from thirty years ago aren't the rage anymore.

How does it smell? I've always felt that AD is an unnecessary fragrance in the canon of classic masculines. Its problem isn't one of quality or craftsmanship. Its ingredients smell fairly natural, and they comprise a balanced scent. There's a pleasant pop of lavender and carnation in the top accord, followed by artemisia, juniper, cinnamon, and precious woods, with a honeyed amber base. It smells ever manly and outdoorsy, with that "refined gentleman" feel you get with conservative fougères of yesteryear. Yet fragrances like Jazz, Tsar, Francesco Smalto PH, Yatagan, and Furyo are all more interesting examples of the genre. In fact, I'd even say that AD is superfluous, and unless you're a total newcomer to classic fragrances, there's literally no reason at all to bother with it.

There have been rumors that this fragrance is discontinued, and if they're true, I wouldn't be surprised if the dialogue about it becomes even more inane. In ten years I'll be reading about how great it is, and I'll probably be seeing it on Ebay for a hundred dollars an ounce. What a life.


  1. Fortunately these problems do not arise with the cinematic creations in which Alain Delon plays lead roles. Have you seen Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) and Le Samourai? Two of my all-time favorite films (favorites not among just AD films, but all films)!

    1. La Piscine, 1969, my favorite Delon film. The cinematic equivalent of an afternoon in the sun watching some other guy's wife while fantasizing about how best to dispose of him and have her all to yourself.


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