Boss N° 6 (Hugo Boss)

Fancy package, working class contents.

It seems fitting that Ryan Reynolds is the recent face of Hugo Boss' sixth masculine release. The actor is a middle class success story, a man who made his way to the top without the help of wealthy parents and trust funds. Likewise, Boss N°6, also known as Boss Bottled, is a modest fragrance that has become a sleeper classic, something of an olfactory signature for the late nineties, and arguably the first in a short but prestigious line of sweet, semi-gourmand fougères of that time period.

But is it a fougère, really? It contains two simple accords, the first being spiced apple, and the second a vanillic woody amber. Bear the lineage in mind; Cool Water's main accord is crisp lavender and crab apple, followed by tobacco-tinged woody amber and musk. Ten years later, Boss N°6 arrives with an even bigger apple note, this time very red and edible, followed by a saccharine bouquet of muted florals and synthetic woods, punctuated by hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Perhaps one could say it's an oriental, but good ferns have a way of hiding lavender and coumarin in plain sight. In Moustache, the lime and green notes disguise the lavender, with an oakmoss note serving as a bittering agent for the hefty slug of hay-like coumarin that follows.

In N°6, the lavender is mated to spiced apple, preventing it from smelling feminine, while the coumarinic effect of a true fern is evident in the drydown's powdery aura of almost-edible warmth. I think N°6 was the inspiration for Chanel's original Allure Homme, which came a year later. However, I don't find Annick Menardo's fragrance to be as compelling as Jacques Polge's. Allure presents a fascinatingly complex structure as a suave blend, with few notes outright discernible, yet all somehow very detectable. Fragrantica has recently lost credibility with me in the note pyramid department, as much of their pyramids have suddenly changed to exclude notes that are present in various compositions, and include notes that have nothing to do with them at all. Allure is a victim of this development, as its Fragrantica pyramid now lists silly things like coconut and peach (neither note exists in Chanel's scent).

However, once upon a time, Allure's pyramid accurately included rosewood, which is conspicuously absent from Boss N°6. Also missing is Allure's stunning synthetic labdanum, and the deep sandalwood impression I get about five hours into wearing it. Boss is all about soft, smooth notes, with a creamy take on woody amber, which is why I consider it a "warm" scent. It also plays a bit safe and bland. The word "innocuous" comes to mind. Many guys refer to apple pie in their reviews of N°6, and while I don't get that impression from it, I can certainly understand it, given the combination of gourmandish cinnamon and herbalized red apple.

If you're looking for a more convincing apple pie effect, I recommend trying Aubusson Pour Homme, or Witness by Jacques Bogart. With Boss N°6, you're better off expecting a very soft, sweet, cushy teddy bear of a fragrance, the sort of thing harmless American males used to wear, back when Bill Clinton was the President and Britney Spears still topped the charts.

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