Classic Match "Drakkar Noir" (Parfums Belcam)

True beauty is usually copied.

Drakkar Noir is cheap enough to make spending anything on a knock-off seem silly. It's not like we're looking for an affordable alternative to Creed here. But the fun in spending five bucks or so on a faux Drakkar comes with finding an olfactory alternative that puts a twist on the original, while maintaining the same general profile.

For example, Buxton extended the sweetness of Drakkar's mint and the warmth of its amber, creating Taxi, a different scent that was nevertheless an unabashed Laroche clone. Francesco Smalto Pour Homme diffuses the focused lavender/pine attack of Drakkar into a heady melange of smoky notes, which winds up smelling rather like Drakkar covered in sun-baked grass clippings. Lomani Pour Homme aggravates the dihydromyrcenol and linalool "fresh" effect, becoming at once soapier and more transparent than its congener. Diamond Collection's Dakar scent is closer to Taxi than Drakkar, but it's certainly close enough to Wargnye's idea to pass muster with Drakkar fans. As I mentioned last month, it's arguably useful to dispense with the term "clone," and replace it with the word "idea," because each scent is its own unique experience, and each is very different, but they do play off the same idea.

Enter Parfum Belcam's Classic Match version of Drakkar Noir, which oddly enough doesn't have its own name (the bottle simply says "classic match"). We're given to assume that it's a close copy of Drakkar, because its creators didn't feel the need to bestow upon it an original moniker of any sort, leaving the unambiguous associations of its bottle's shape and color to speak for itself. This makes Belcam's scent an outlier among clones; companies generally attempt to fob off the inherent crappiness of cloning by having fun with letters and rhyming their formula's name with the original's - Belcam chose not to. I already own Drakkar and Taxi, so I figured I'd pay the price of three rolls of toilet paper and pick up a small bottle of Belcam's clone. I've read about this one, and apparently it's very close to the original version of DN from 1982, to the point where scientists conducted a gas chromatography comparison between the formulas. Interestingly, the results show that the two chemical compositions are almost identical.

The differences are, however, quite clear in the wearing. Drakkar is a smooth, soapy, bitter, and smoky fragrance. Its opening salvo of spike lavender, tart citrus, and pine is one of the finest accords in the history of masculine perfumery. Classic Match's top accord is, in my estimation, about 97% the same as Drakkar's, but that three percent is noticeable. There's much more patchouli in Belcam's version, with more than a light touch of woodsy skank, an oilier pine note that hovers between synthetic freshness and earthy intrigue. Most significant of all is a distinct basil note, which doesn't exist in Drakkar. As the minutes pass, it becomes clear that this non-gourmand basil element is Belcam's replacement for spike lavender, and the effect is predictably more herbal. The patchouli tempers it, though. Put simply, it smells paradoxically brighter and dirtier than Drakkar.

The drydown, which arrives in fifteen minutes, reveals a tenuously balanced base of patchouli, synthetic oakmoss, cade oil (that juniper-derived smokiness I've come to love), lavender, and peppermint. It's not very complex, despite how it sounds. It's basically just another Drakkar-like soapy effect, this time from a headshop. What I like about it is that its "clean" elements are gently offset by accents of vaguely filthy wood, which makes Belcam's scent memorable enough to warrant owning. It also smells somewhat natural, although here I'm sure the perfumer would rather I use restraint in this analysis, as the blending isn't so great, and the balance between natural oils and synthetics is somewhat crude. Still, not bad.

Will this replace Drakkar Noir? Is it as glamorous as those eighties power scents that guys like me love? I think it's almost as good as Drakkar, but not quite. Honestly, I think it would make a very good aftershave. It does possess a sort of sexy shimmer of its own, rather like seeing a beauty from a bygone era through a speckled, colorless lens. I don't regret the purchase. If you're in it for next to nothing, why not try Belcam's Classic Match? At least they got the "classic" part right.