"My Old Spice Is Better Than Yours!" How A Classic Drugstore Scent Became The Most Contentious Reformulation Of All Time

The Ship Grand Turk

On February 22nd of this year, I stopped at a store and picked up a few things. On a whim, I grabbed some shaving items, and noticed they had P&G's Old Spice cologne in stock. It was the version with an atomizer. I'd never experienced this scent in spray form, so I bought it, also on a whim. One of the nice things about its plastic bottle is that it hearkens back to the mid 1950s, when Shulton first started exploring plastic for packaging, selling smaller travel bottles and ancillary grooming products in this material.

February was the coldest month for Connecticut in recent memory, and that day happened to be the coldest of the year, with evening temperatures dipping to around ten degrees below zero. It was eight o'clock at night, and I had to get gas, so I pulled into the station and mentally prepared to freeze to death at the pump. I imagined they'd find me there the next morning, my blue claw of a hand still clutching the metal pump handle, my frostbitten ass still leaning casually against the haunches of an icicle-encrusted Pontiac, my body a suburbanized version of Jack Nicholson's corpse in The Shining.

As the bitter cold attacked my face and hands, I realized that a good diversion would be to try the Old Spice spray. It's an excellent way to distract the mind away from black patches of dying flesh. Shivering, I primed the atomizer, and gave myself two sprays to the chest. The cologne practically crystallized in the air, but I gave my wrist an extra puff for good measure.

A stunning accord hit my nose, a beautiful blend of orange aldehydes, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It was so clean and clear and cheerful that I wondered why I'd been wearing KL Homme all winter. The tank was filled, and I was on my way, still marveling at what I was smelling. By the time I reached my house, the car was full of musky cloves with hints of powdery, slightly vanillic amber wafting in the background.

This got me thinking about Proctor & Gamble's version of Old Spice, a formula much maligned in the wet shaver community as being the utter ruination of grandpa's only cologne. It is indeed a bit different from the "Shulton formula," but I'll get to that in a minute. The past few months have seen me ruminating on the strange dilemma facing today's Old Spice fan, as my experience with the current fragrance could not be more different from what many men on fragrance boards are claiming to smell. If you're someone who likes Old Spice, or is interested in trying it for the first time, you have to figure out which version is best to track down: the Shulton version, the "Shulton" version, the "Indian Shulton" version, or the Proctor & Gamble version.

You may be wondering why I keep putting "Shulton" in quotation marks. Shulton stopped manufacturing and formulating Old Spice when it sold the brand to American Cyanamid, a chemical manufacturing conglomerate, in 1970. This little factoid seems to elude many of the guys who complain about Proctor & Gamble's formula. They act as though the formula was sacred and untouched for seventy years, like the ultimate gesture of all-natural perfumery for the undiscerning male, until those evil assholes at P&G came along and cheapened it with their plastic bottles and vile synthetics. But this is simply not true.

In 2012 a man came forward on Badger & Blade with a headspace gas chromatography analysis of three Old Spices, a vintage Shulton, "current Shulton" (actually a generic, Indian-made aftershave), P&G's version, and the North American generic version of this scent, primarily made by Vi-Jon, with results clearly posted for everyone to see (click image to enlarge):

This analysis suggested four things about this fragrance:
1. An Indian reformulation of Shulton's Old Spice changed the formula, making it spicier (with far more variegated peak activity).

2. The volatility and balance of the oldest Old Spice is possibly a bit degraded after years of storage.

3. P&G's version of Old Spice is only notably different from vintage Shulton's in the tippy-top notes, possibly four chemicals in the early drydown phase, and apparently one base note (where one P&G chemical is noticeably stronger, probably eugenol).

4. Vi-Jon "Spice" aftershave is only mildly different from P&G's, and the significance of those differences is hard to fathom. (It shares more in common with P&G's formula than either of the earlier Shultons.)

Again, "Shulton" is in quotation marks, because the "current Shulton" was actually a Menezes Cosmetics formula, manufactured in India. Many people don't really understand what Menezes Cosmetics did with Old Spice. Let me clear that up.

"Old Spice" was a generic name for aftershave in India. In 1968, Menezes introduced the brand in India as a licensee of Shulton, and continued to manufacture and sell Old Spice for the better part of the seventies and eighties. They officially sold the license to P&G in 1993. Old Spice changed hands four times in twenty years through the eighties and nineties (Menezes, Godrej, Marico, Menezes), most notably to Marico Industries in 1999, until P&G returned licensing to Menezes in 2002, giving them a ten year contract to manufacture Old Spice. Until 2012, P&G permitted several corporate entities, including Rubicon Formulations, Colfax pvt (Menezes' original founding company), and MCPL India pvt ltd (the most recent incarnation of P&G's partnership with Menezes), to sell their aftershaves in India as Old Spice. Again, in India, Old Spice was the generic term for aftershave. ALL aftershave. Hence, several Indian companies made it under the watchful eye of Menezes, and eventually P&G, and were given permission to market it with "Shulton" printed on the bottles, which happen to closely resemble the original bottles.

In December of 2012, P&G reigned it all in when MCPL India's license expired, which means that, as of 2013, these smaller Indian subsidiaries aren't manufacturing and distributing their generic aftershave formula as Old Spice anymore - not legally, at least. Native Indians are now getting the same stuff we get here in North America. So much for Indian Old Spice.

This explains why there's so much confusion regarding Indian Old Spice, and who manufactures and distributes it. Guys are always getting bottles that look and smell different from each other, and with different markings. Yet they rarely investigate why this is. Well guys, now you know why. One word: "Generic." And in India, of all places, the outsourcing of a formula to a half dozen competing companies with access to a wide-ranging variety of raw materials would yield very strange, subtly different, and virtually untraceable formulas, some even coming in questionable plastic bottles, painted white to resemble Egyptian ceramic.

But I digress. My corresponding takeaway from the analysis results are as follows:
1. This is an excellent example of a reformulation that made a scent more complex and dynamic, not less, which refutes the notion that all reformulations are bad. The Indian version sampled is quite a bit more volatile than the vintage Shulton formula.

2. This is yet another fragrance that exhibits some degradation with age.

3. The differences between vintage Shulton and P&G are evident but negligible, clearly showing that the newer formula has better longevity via an added base note.

4. The difference between Vi-Jon and vintage Shulton is far greater than between Vi-Jon and P&G. It even has similar longevity to P&G's, exhibiting the same peak in the base (which is absent in Shulton's). To suggest using Vi-Jon's formula as a substitute for Shulton's version is misleading.

You would think that people who dislike P&G's version would read the gas chromatography charts posted in that thread and seriously question their assumptions about Old Spice. In 2012 (and for several years prior), Old Spice by P&G was lamented as being far inferior to "vintage Shulton." Yet the images of the analysis show a different story. The delicate citrus and spice accord of the top-heavy vintage is barely different from P&G's; the spicy heart accords are quite similar, and the base of P&G's formula is more complex than the nonexistent base of vintage.

Yet the fallacy remains: "P&G ruined Old Spice."

Not one single soul has ever offered a clear definition of those terms. In what way specifically has the scent been diminished? Which notes specifically were removed? Which notes specifically were replaced by nasty synthetics? In what way specifically has the drydown arch of the scent been degraded into something unworthy of eight or nine dollars at a drugstore? Examples are never given. Here is a typical complaint:
"Suffice to say, P&G destroyed Old Spice. It was so disappointing, I used the rest of the bottle while bathing my dogs. Thankfully we can still get the Shulton India Old Spice, which to me is the same as the original before P&G took over the USA operations."

Aside from being a grossly inaccurate statement, this comment reveals nothing about why this person thinks P&G destroyed Old Spice. Now imagine a hundred of these, all from men with the same level of ignorance. No wonder P&G has a bad rep.

We can see from the "headspace" gas chromatography analysis that the formulas have some basic similarities and differences, but unfortunately the analysis given isn't complete in its cataloguing of volatile elements. Had the poster given results of a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis, a clearer understanding of how exact notes and accords differed might have been reached. As one member said,
"In examining the tracings closely, it appears that the current Shulton has 4 strong spikes (at 10.4, 11.3, 13.2, 13.7) that are either absent or much weaker in the vintage. The spike at 14.0 is much stronger in the vintage than in the current Shulton. The spikes at 14.1 are strong in both, but much stronger in the current. In addition there are other minor variations. The current and vintage do not appear to be the same formulation, and the observed differences could account for differences in odor. Such differences would also depend on the potency of those components, the identity of which are not known. This is not my area of expertise, but I'd like to know why do you feel that the formulations are identical. It might be worth doing a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to actually identify those components that differ between the two, as they might be quite important parts of the overall aromas."

The gas chromatography charts clearly show that the Indian sample of Old Spice has more volatility than any other sample. There are more spikes in chemical activity at shorter intervals in the Indian version compared to the Shulton version. One might surmise that the Shulton version would match the activity shown in the Indian chart if it had been the same age, but according to the poster, this was an "older" sample. I attribute the wider and more numerous valleys in the vintage Shulton to its age.

The charts also clearly show that there is only a small difference in the top notes of Shulton/Indian OS and P&G OS, as the former reveal three small peaks, while the latter shows none. What is unclear is what those little peaks mean in the non P&G formulas. Are they showing us a difference in volatility between active, or inactive ingredients?

The poster made the crucial mistake of analyzing aftershaves, and not colognes. Thus, not all candidates for olfactory analysis are perfume odorants. There may be some skin conditioning esters with tertiary odorant effects in the formulas, and in P&G's formula those effects may have been intentionally eliminated, marking the absence of those three little peaks.

Or it could just be that the castor oil in the P&G version wasn't sitting as long as in the other samples, which again makes sense with a newer product. Castor oil gets funkier the longer it sits. Since this is "headspace" chromatography, one has to wonder whether the slightly ashy funk of old castor oil was taken into consideration with the older samples. I know that the presence of this oil in OS accounts for why the aftershave smells a bit different than the cologne. Yet nobody mentions this element in the thread.

In the heartnotes drydown stage, about twenty minutes into development, it's clear that P&G's formula has a couple of spikes that vintage Shulton's lacks, and vintage Shulton's has a few spikes that P&G's lacks. However, the general "flow" of the drydowns are very, very similar. I can't help but wonder if comparing the two is splitting hairs. The pictures don't lie. Different formulas? Yes.

VASTLY different formulas? Not even close. P&G's formula is blatantly recognizable as Old Spice.

The P&G formula has the most complex base of the three, which oddly doesn't get mentioned. I guess having a simplistic powder base with no real "spice" to it is preferred by members of B&B, because that's how Shulton's version actually smells. What the charts really show is that P&G's formula has longevity, a trait seriously lacking in Shulton's formula.

Yet many members of the board lament P&G's formula as having "no longevity." The claim is that the new stuff is gone in minutes, while the vintage Shulton lasts and lasts.

Which is complete, utter, totally unadulterated hogwash.

The exact opposite is true. I have owned and worn vintage eighties Old Spice cologne by Shulton. It lasted all of five minutes on skin before vanishing completely. It really was all about top notes, that stuff. Smelled great, but gone in a flash.

P&G's version? Hours. With liberal application, the rich clove note in the base, combined with a few whispery resins, really maintains a presence throughout the day. I honestly doubt that any of the naysayers on Badger & Blade have actually bothered to give the stuff a full wearing. They're too busy assuming it sucks. They are apparently a group of "Feelers," not "Tasters."

But the most ridiculous and perhaps intellectually damning little tidbit to the analysis is that it reveals a major fallacy perpetuated by people online regarding Vi-Jon "Spice Scent" aftershave - that it is more like vintage Shulton Old Spice than P&G's formula. The analysis shows the opposite is true. There is a closer match between Vi-Jon's development and P&G OS's development, and aside from perhaps an airier spice accord in Vi-Jon's top, the two are basically cut from the same cloth. Even their drydowns are a closer match, although again, P&G's has more complexity and hold.

Amazingly, this has been a subject of debate for not weeks, or months, but years. The analysis thread is still active. Three years after it was posted, and about twenty pages later, guys are still talking about the reformulation of Old Spice. Isn't it time to just say "enough," and move on? All of the griping about P&G ruining Old Spice isn't borne out by fact, but by opinion only, and that's not enough to give it real legs. It just fuels endless, pointless conjecture.

I've noticed that "vintage lovers" like to exclude a certain consideration from their thinking, and use its absence to explain why their world is so unpleasant. They foam at the mouth about the destruction wreaked upon their favorite formulas by contemporary manufacturers, but dismiss without a second thought any suggestion that the differences detected between samples could be attributable to age. Refreshingly, one B&B member named "Hank Corbett" wrote in 2010 the following about Old Spice:
"I am one of the few who have changed their position on the OS 'recipe tinkering.' I had, until recently, been convinced that the new stuff was not the same water we all know and love. I now am on the side of P&G on the issue. I think it's a matter of 'freshness,' as it has been stated. A bottle of 30 year old after-shave or cologne is not going to smell the same as a bottle of juice manufactured last week. The Shulton stuff ages well and still smells fantastic after prolonged storage and I do enjoy wearing it. I am of the opinion that the P&G stuff will age just as gracefully. I have been wearing P&G Old Spice cologne exclusively for the past week find it to be the same stuff I wore back in pre-P&G days (but certainly 'different' than Shulton only because it has not aged for years and years). After a few hours of wear, it smells like Old Spice. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, one must actually wear the stuff; not smell from the bottle at the store. But I did sprinkle some in my baseball cap and the next day, it reeked of Shulton."

Is it possible that older aftershaves preserve better than colognes? Perhaps Old Spice has a generous maturation period of several decades, and not years? I couldn't tell you. But this post at least acknowledges the reality of the situation - you can't expect to make an accurate comparison between something made thirty years ago, and something put on store shelves yesterday.

A member named "Goss" responded in kind to Hank's comment:
"I agree and have changed my position on this subject also. I believe it has to do with aging of the 'recipe.' I have a brand new bottle of Old Spice AS and plan on tucking it away for the next 20 years. I'm sure it will age just like the Shulton O/S."

An even more prescient sentiment was shared by someone going by the moniker "WastedResources" -
"The average shelf life for a bottle of cologne or aftershave is about two years. After that, the ingredients break down, and the scent is no longer its original form, but it may still smell pleasant. This has nothing to do with evaporation. It has everything to do with the aging of chemicals in a bottle. It doesn't mean that the ingredients in the 70 year old bottle aren't different than what's in the new bottles. It just means that the 70 year old bottle doesn't smell the same as it did when it came off of the shelf."

It's possible that an older fragrance may smell somewhat pleasant, and certainly wearable, but as I've always said about this subject, would you really want to experience a fragrance that way? Wouldn't it bother you that you're not really smelling the composition the way it was meant to be smelled? That you're experiencing a faded, simplified, and relatively stale version of whatever scent you enjoy? Isn't it better to get a fresh bottle and, if maturation is a plus for you, let it sit for two years or so, and then enjoy, rather than letting it sit twenty or thirty years past its peak? And most importantly with this scent, isn't it a serious miscalculation to assume that Proctor & Gamble "destroyed" your favorite cologne if you've never had an issue with early nineties P&G Old Spice, back when they still bottled it in glass?

I often feel this way about my bottle of Furyo by Bogart. I love the stuff with a passion, and it still smells good and quite wearable, but I always wish I'd found it back when it was still on the market, new. I wish to God that I'd worn it in the early nineties, and experienced what it actually smelled like when it was fresh.

If you dislike Proctor & Gamble as a company for some specific reason, state that reason when you complain about them as being some sort of "evil empire" that kills good products. Otherwise I'm left reading your thoughts in suspended animation. I have no idea why you hate them; you just do, and they don't give a shit how you feel anyway.

If you dislike P&G's formula for Old Spice, state why, exactly. Saying that they replaced the spices with "synthetic floral and powder notes" isn't saying anything. Yes, there's a synthetic carnation note in Old Spice. Guess what? There was always a synthetic carnation note in Old Spice. And you know what else? Old Spice always smelled like it was made with synthetics. There's no shame in that. That's what perfumery is. Recent batches have a very natural-smelling clove note in the base, which is unsurprising given that eugenol is a readily available, naturally-derived perfume ingredient that smells terrific, if you like the smell of clove. Actually nothing synthetic there, although to read people's thoughts on it, you'd think they distilled "eau de plastic" into the base. Hey, it's in a plastic bottle, so it automatically smells like plastic, right?

I can't help but wonder why nobody mentions this incredibly clear and potent clove note on any of the boards. Do they not know what eugenol smells like? Are they incapable of identifying clove in a composition? Are they even wearing this stuff long enough to smell it? Are they wearing it at all? The fact that clove is never mentioned as a prominent note in the drydown of the new formula makes me think that most of the complainers aren't really giving P&G OS a fair shake.

If you have a real beef with Old Spice as it stands today, I can only make one suggestion. Try it on the coldest day of the year. They say that a rock song's quality is measured by how good it sounds unplugged. The "Perfume-In-The-Cold Test" is a similar metric for fragrances. If it's really shit, it'll literally collapse under the weight of frigid air. But if it's a masterpiece, the cold can do nothing but enhance its beauty further.

I feel sorry for people who believe that Proctor & Gamble destroyed Old Spice. They're "vintage lovers," and are, unfortunately, their own worst enemy. They nix the potential of any new product, based on its association with an equally (and arbitrarily) maligned manufacturer, and deprive themselves of easy enjoyment by seeking out pricier and rarer vintages. Most insidiously, they spread misinformation about new products on the internet, discouraging people from buying them, putting products that the rest of us enjoy on the line. When confronted about it, some will even reject their own culpability in the commercial stakes, saying their words bear no influence on the fate of a fragrance.

But recent reissues of internet stars like Acteur and Red for Men suggest that the internet is very influential to industry decision makers, perhaps second only to sales. And while those are success stories, it's a two-way street; negative press, if repeated for years on countless threads, will eventually jeopardize the subject's commercial prospects.

Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping "vintage lovers" from just dropping the bullshit and accepting that a little change here or there isn't worth throwing an endless tantrum over. With Old Spice, it would behoove them to just enjoy the reformulation and move on, rather than dwell on an ever-dwindling past.

But I suspect this will never happen. It's tragic, really.


  1. Fun stuff... And pretty thorough! I recall seeing the same analysis a year or two ago. I do notice the slightly different top notes in older bottles, and I might dispute the aging argument a little (though hardly discount it), as, trying a Salvation Army vintage glass bottle side by side with a newer one, I was struck by a certain place-memory triggered more dramatically by the former, the place in question being in front of the medicine cabinet of my childhood home while splashing the stuff on (fresh then) in the late 80's or early 90's.
    What seemed different to me? The older batch seemed to have a certain creaminess (a star anise note, maybe backed up by jasmine) that sort of floated the cardboard-y/wet dog aspects of the nutmeg more softly in the first ten seconds of application. That said, the new stuff definitely is not bad at all to my nose. The opening is a bit sharper, and I guess the alcohol less dressed up, but the dry down, I agree, is very, very similar. One point I could not agree more with you about is longevity... These comments are for the aftershave, and even that, splashed on a little on a day when I wanted to feel like I was wearing pyjamas under my suit, lasted several hours... (BTW, there is a favourable review of the aftershave put through an atomizer on Now Smell This that is pretty amusing as well...) I'll look for the cologne and hope that I get a cold enough day to experience a similar Damascene Conversion!

    1. The aftershave by Shulton was arguably better than the cologne, I suspect the formula was just a hair different, as it sparkled more, as though it were made of lighter materials conveying brighter citrus and floral notes. Interestingly, the P&G aftershave has a similar effect, but it's a little heartier.

      Ultimately people will wear and enjoy whichever version of OS they prefer, a reality that I'm more than happy with. What gets me is when I sense "herd mentality" toward a fragrance. A few older guys wrinkle their noses at the reformulation, and next thing you know dozens of teens and twenty-somethings are claiming they've done the Pepsi challenge, and "the new stuff sucks."

      That would even be bearable if they could elaborate with anything that sounded credible beyond complaining about the plastic bottle, but generally from the twenty some-odd threads I've read on OS, the complainers seem to want to fit in, not think for themselves, and admit they really can't discern a significant difference between Shulton and P&G. If you prefer Shulton for the bottle, that's one thing. If you prefer it for the smell, and start explaining yourself by saying, "The Shulton lasts longer," get ready to defend that one!

      Thanks for telling me about the scent memory. Amazing how that happens, isn't it?

  2. I did end up picking up the P & G atomizer after reading this. It's actually not bad, as you say, but also quite different from the current incarnation of the aftershave. I agree with your observations about the differences between the two; the aftershave does seem to 'sparkle' more and the peppry-dry cedar wood note, if that's what I'm smelling (the one that really does recall an old spice cupboard or an old book) seems more pronounced. I've been wearing both with the vintage (circa 1990's) aftershave layered on top, and I think the differences mostly relate to the star anise and creamy-floral notes being more pronounced in the vintage, though lately I've been wondering what part sage might play in the older version (I'm not smelling it in the new cologne, but maybe in the aftershave?)
    On that note: love them or hate them, I think that it's important to consider reformulations as design decisions not just rampant corporate sabotage, IFRA chemical consortium conspiracy or sheer incompetence (though I'm sure we all have at least one reformulation for which we suspect all three apply). I have noticed, though, that some really notable reformulations of iconic masculines (in my limited experience: Fahrenheit, Polo, Antaeus and now Old Spice) have significantly diminished floral aspects. The current Antaeus seems to be missing a rose note in the heart that I detected even two years ago, and the honeysuckle of Fahrenheit has been downplayed in favour of the gasoline note (this may be because of the limiting of lyral, but in general there is just less of a floral vibe there than in the 1990's). I'm wondering if this is due to a perception that contemporary guys (at least in the mass market) are insecure about smelling like flowers? Fruity notes seem to be taking more and more of the market share previously given over to herbs and flowers/ Is this just my perception (Sephora-dysphoria) or is this part of the ongoing evolution of messages being sent and received about masculinity?

    1. Fruity notes are perhaps a bit more androgynous than floral notes, in that they convey gender neutrality better than hefty doses of lily or rose might. Everyone eats fruit, but not everyone puts flowers in the vase of their Volkswagen New Beetle. That's more of a girl thing, although I would argue that it certainly doesn't have to be. Nor does the perception of flowers being "girly" jive with reality, as the real world hosts many different kinds of men, many of whom love floral notes and flowers in general. But heterosexual males are threatened by anything that even remotely nudges their orientation even a micrometer closer to the border.

      Companies often aim to hit the broad side of the barn, not the iron rooster on the weathervane. In the past the floral notes were perhaps more noticeable, but as you may have indirectly suggested in your comment, they were "nondescript." A slight sweetness here, a dewey greenness there, perhaps a bitter rose or musky white floral powder puff, but never anything you could actually name. Smell VC&A Pour Homme to see what I mean. Many tout it as being an iconic "rose fragrance for men," but in truth the rose is so dry, bitter, and dark that the whole thing comes across as being a typical masculine soap scent, very fresh and vague (not necessarily a terrible thing to smell of these days).

      Just my thoughts. Take a look at Insensé by Givenchy. It failed miserably because it tried to make nondescript florals smell distinct. All the guys who claim to smell flowers in it rarely name which flowers they're smelling. In the end, it wound up being too vague for people to love, and too loud about its vagueries, which I think is why it failed so quickly.

  3. I have to say Old Spice's "Smell Mantastic" ads here in India are hilarious.
    I see fake/imitation bottles of Old Spice, Brut, English Leather, & Jovan products all the time in India & Nepal. You can find counterfeit versions of fragrances, popular clothing designers, shoes, prepared foods (ie cake mix, ketchup), hair care, makeup, toothbrushes, handbags, - pretty much everything all over Asia. Usually they're obviously fake as the quality is markedly inferior & the packaging is often bizarre - spelling mistakes, poor grammar, nonsensical statements, poorly applied/crooked label, wrong color/mismatched packaging (a good example would be the "Brut" stick deodorant my son recently bought at a local store, a bright red plastic tube -not the usual dark green- with a traditional black & silver "Brut" label on the front & a vague label on the back stating 'Made in the USA" but no mention of Faberge, Unilever, Idelle or any other major manufacturing corporation listed, did not smell like Brut at all & had no deodorant properties other than a vague citrus scent).

    I've seen various fake variations of Old Spice sold all over India & Nepal also. I really haven't bothered to smell them as my husband is a 'fougere hater'.
    Old Spice was my dad's signature fragrance, I recall it being quite long lasting with just enough throw to let you know "Dad's showered, shaved, & ready to go!" from at least 10 ft away. My dad had this natural sort of sandalwood/light musk scent about him even when freshly showered & scrubbed with Dial. The spicy sweetness of Old Spice went well with his natural 'must'. I always thought that was the masculine appeal of fougeres, their unique ability to complement men's natural scent.
    Yes, everybody has their own BODY ODOR (even though it's unAmerican to mention it). Most men seem to have either a natural sandalwood/musk scent or a cumin/diesel scent to them, fougeres generally complement both. I'm not even going to go into what women smell like. ;)

    1. Your husband may forgive your interest in Old Spice - it's an oriental, not a fougere.

  4. I was just looking at the purported notes for Old Spice.
    That 'clove' scent you mentioned in OS is probably the carnation. Certain breeds of carnation have a distinctively clove- like spicy scent & are grown specifically for that reason.

    1. I totally get what you're saying, Bibi, but realistically there's more likely a hefty dollop of eugenol in the base, and not distilled essence of carnation. I do get a bit of peppery carnation in the first two hours of wear, quite notable, and perhaps they intended the base to dry down as that variety of carnation also, but I can't get past what smells like a blatant insertion of clove alcohol, yet another of the many "spices" in this brew.

  5. Bryan,
    From one of my perfumery textbooks-
    "In perfumery, given that the absolute would be far too expensive, the carnation accord is built around other notes, like rose and cloves, together with synthetic materials. Carnation and cloves are rich in aromachemicals like eugenol and isoeugenol, and both are used when crafting the accord: the former for the spicy twist, the latter for the floral and balsamic edge."
    That's what I'm trying to tell you!
    The 'carnation' in Old Spice is a synthetic accord containing eugenol.
    Furthermore, despite my husband being a Sheikh he can't stand anything spicy & Oriental like Old Spice nor fougères like Brut. He prefers to smell 'clean & fresh' and is quite happy with the Gendarme I bought him.
    I just went to the biggest "departmental' store in Kathmandu this morning. On offer was "Old Spice After Shave Lotion" in "Original", "Fresh Lime", and "Musk". On the 'tamper proof' sealed box all the OS products were stated to have been made in Mumbai & marketed by Proctor & Gamble. Much to the dept. store clerk's chagrin, I opened all 3 boxes & dabbed a bit of each on each wrist & the inside of one elbow.
    Fresh Lime- smells familiar, ok I get it - this is like Bay Rum, not bad, classic.
    Musk- WTH? cheap hairspray musk on a spicy base- HELL TO THE NO! SCRUBBER!
    Original- Initially, smells like my dad's OS but weaker. After 2 hrs it has expanded a bit but is still weaker than I remember dad's. I'm getting the warmth of the carnation/clove accord along with a spiciness and sweetness more like Xmas potpourri. After 4 hours all I'm getting clove, vanillin, almost a wintergreen/salicylate (supposed to be a jasmine note?), and something that smells like it's trying hard to be a creamy dreamy sandalwood. Definitely no cedar or pepper.
    Keep in mind - if this after shave lotion was made & Mumbai & transported to Kathmandu it mostly likely suffered a LONG non fragrance friendly journey across the searing plains of India & up to the Himalayas by non insulated train & truck. Citrus notes are quite volatile & would be the first to go.
    This after shave lotion overall just seems to be a lot less potent than how I remember my dad's OS. But my dad also used the OS soap on a rope, the OS shaving soap that came in a disk which fit in his shaving mug, the OS after shave, & the OS spray deodorant- that was a lot of layering. I didn't get much of the opening lemony citrus blast that I recall but the orange was definitely still there.

    1. Well that makes sense, although I still rather doubt that they went to much trouble with a carnation reconstruction beyond some aldehyde and eugenol, but I'm happy to be mistaken on that - it would lend further credence to my contention that this is one of the most important and well conceived orientals of the twentieth century!

      Have you ever tried Skin Bracer? It's more mellow than Brut and has a very smooth drydown. Might be a fougere to consider.

    2. Skin Bracer isn't available in India.
      My husband doesn't have much use for after shave as he doesn't shave himself. No, he isn't sporting a ZZ Top/Mullah style beard.
      The Victorian barbershop is one of the relics of the British Raj the Indians decided to keep. For the princely sum of about $1 my husband can go to the local barbershop & get treated to a shave with hot towels, hot lather, then a straight edge razor shave, followed by a cold towel & application of aftershave. He doesn't seem to mind the cheap & obnoxious aftershave they slap on him at the barbershop nor the dubious hygiene of the place. Do not let the Bollywood posters & garish paint scheme fool you, the Victorian barbershop lives on in India.
      As far as Old Spice goes Olivier Creed has said in interviews that Old Spice is a "masterpiece" he would be proud to have created. A friend of mine who is a Givaudan trained perfumer has said the same thing & states that is exactly why OS has been around forever. Also bear in mind that you aren't paying for a gimmicky bottle or some lavish presentation with OS, so that juice in the cheap plastic bottle might just cost more to produce than some of those 'high end' designer fragrances.

  6. OK you two, this conversation is getting wonderfully heady. I have been layering a recent vintage of Old Spice (creamy and dreamy indeed) with the newest incarnation (no pun intended) of Old Spice Cologne, but Christmas is coming and so I am looking for something more durable (and frankly beautiful) to complement the vintage Old Spice. Some contenders I have been researching (each of these has at some point ben likened to Old Spice) are the current formulations of YSL Opium (for women), Kouros and Boucheron's Jaipur (either the EDT or EDP). Do you have any input on how closely these might resemble - or be reconciled to- the spice cupboard/old book-meets-barbershop charm of vintage Old Spice? Thank you for your time and perspectives!

    1. John, I can recommend trying Cinnabar, Aramis JHL, Cartier's Le Baiser du Dragon, and KL Homme. Also consider Royal Copenhagen cologne, which I'm finding ages really well. My spray has been in the wardrobe for three years and is about 70% full. It's getting muskier and a little sweeter with time. The Five Star formula is what I have.

    2. Thank you! Someone else was suggesting Equipage, but I admit to a budget more inclined towards Royal Copenhagen... It was also my father's favourite (I always wondered if it got a bit more mileage out of my youthful imagination from the fact that it was layered over the smell of unfiltered Gauloises...)

    3. Karl Lager Homme is the closest to an OS dupe made with quality ingredients. Cinnabar has that gawd awful EL 'rank accord' that rears it's ugly head after about 3 hours.
      Hmmm.....if you added oakmoss to OS it would be a fougere. It's got the linalool of lavender, the star anise for the anisic note & the tonka bean (coumarin) for the 'hay - like' aspect. Maybe we're onto something here?

    4. Just having linalool doesn't mean there's a lavender note in the fragrance, and I don't smell lavender in OS, so it's more than a dash of oakmoss away from ferndom to me. And for that matter, even having lavender isn't always enough, either. Royal Copenhagen has a brisk lavender, but it's Amber is bigger, making it an oriental. Refer to Haarman & Reimer's "Fragrance Genealogie" masculin chart, Bibi. The classification roadmap is there, and in my opinion it is crucial for people seeking family comparatives for favored fragrances. Agree that KL Homme is tops. Not sure about your reference to Cinnabar, though. What is the "rank" note?

  7. Well, OS lists jasmine as a note also, I don't detect any jasmine in OS either.
    If we can call eugenol an attempt at carnation & tonka bean gets reduced to coumarin then I don't understand why we can't pass off linalool as lavender.
    I took another whiff of the Indian OS & I'm not getting that strong licorice-y/root beer star anise note you describe in the Indian OS either. If anything the American OS you describe sounds spicier than the Indian OS I just sampled. I recall my dad's OS having a bit more of a spicy punch than this Indian OS too, like I could pick out the nutmeg & the peppery pimento along with the star anise. The Indian OS seems smoother, and not in a good way.

    I'm not sure exactly what the 'rank accord' is in EL's fragrances that smells so bad. When I was at university in San Francisco I worked at the ladies' fragrance counters at Macy's & Nordstrom. EL's Knowing had just come out, the old standbys were there like Youth Dew, Cinnabar, White Linen, and Beautiful had been around for a few years by then. The other women working the fragrance counter & I all noticed that EL's fragrances started out nicely but in a few hours ended up with what we referred to as the 'rank accord'. A few of my fellow female sales associates said it smells like sweaty butt crack or armpit (I'd say that description was definitely animalic). To me it was more like the ketosis/acetone breath that diabetics get when their blood sugar is out of whack or low carb dieters get when their body switches to burning fat. (It's usually acetone, β-hydroxybutyric acid, and acetoacetic acid building up from burning fat that causes this breath odor). Some people describe this 'ketone breath' smell as 'fruity'. To me it's a rank human + rancid butter + nail polish remover stench. YUK!
    Anyway in 2013 a friend of mine who works for EL in the US sent an EL mini coffret set for men for my husband. All 4 of the EL fragrances for men started out lovely on my husband, by lunchtime I had to ask him to take a shower it was so bad. The smell didn't bother him at all - to me it was absolutely nauseating.

    1. Actually I think it was John who detected anise in a prior formula. But if there's one thing we can all definitely agree on with Old Spice, it's that it's spicy.

      That's interesting about the EL scent's nasty effect to your nose. Never heard about it before. The only scent I have by the company is Tuscany Pour Uomo. Frankly, the drydown is stunning. Sorry to hear you've had unpleasant experiences with EL.

  8. So, so interesting, all this talk about rank notes. I've been reading into reviews of Yatagan, Kouros and Jaipur this autumn, as all three have reputations for beauty but also a problematic human element... (Also, all are something I cannot test where I live). And of course as we increasingly approximate animalics, I find myself wondering how much of this is the power of suggestion. I have a 2006 bottle of Aramis Aramis, the top notes of which have become seemingly bitter and sharp (these are aldehydes?) The base has a kind of cowhide work glove- peanut shell soft, sued sweetness that I find pleasurable, but it is not without bitterness as well. I wonder if this is part of what you are referencing Bibi? I should add that it pleases me enormously to overhear this conversation, but that I am clearly out of my league with the two of you. That said, the anise in older formulations of Old Spice creates (with other notes like clove, no doubt) an almost meaty sweetness I would compare the the smell of a store I know in chinatown whose window is filled with ducks... sweet, savoury and a little medicinal. As for jasmine, I'm not sure. There is a 'creamy' quality in old Old Spice I mentally, sentimentally associate with sandalwood, but it might be helped along by jasmine. I have to say, I've been surprised by what jasmine can do (most strikingly, recently, by the hint of indole in Caron's Third Man... )

    1. Old Spice has a very clear array of spice notes to me, vivid cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It's citrus and vague carnation notes are also noticeable, but in regards to Jasmine, your nose is better, John. If you're interested in other good Jasmine scents, Anais Anais and Tea Rose Jasmin have excellent "reference" jasmines. Third Man, as you mention, is another lovely androgynous floral, a rich Jasmine with lavender and tonka. Tommy Girl is a good "bright" Jasmine also, more obviously exaggerated and synthetic.

  9. A postscript: I recently picked up a late 20th century bottle of the 'cologne' formulation of Old Spice, which I wear with the vintage aftershave (about 5 bucks altogether). A quick disclaimer to say that I don't enjoy the glorification of vintages as a practice, but I really don't know what to say... It is very beautiful and absurdly well crafted by contemporary standards... The benzoin and frankincense notes are very pronounced, so much so that I am occasionally reminded of the myrrh bomb that is Eau Sauvage parfum while wearing it. The geranium is peppery and green, and the star anise deep and unctuous. Note separation is lovingly terraced over a long, smooth, slow drydown; a few drops of the splash bottle last the entire day with perfect sillage... I'm frankly beggared to imagine a world in which a product as luxurious as this was ever put into the Christmas stockings of working class men, but there it is.

  10. I agree 100% with this article.

    I'm a 28 year old male. I had bottles of Old Spice when I was in grade school in the late 90's (I wanted to be like my Dad). They were in glass then. Being a 10 year old kid who slaps on Old Spice cologne, I was just asking to be made fun of for "smelling like an old man."

    I haven't seen or given any thought to Old Spice for at least 18 years.

    After dickin' around with "high-end" stuff and old fashioned scents, a box of Old Spice caught my eye by chance at my local Walgreens. For 9 bucks, I couldn't beat it. I had recently taken up wet shaving as a hobby and I had a feeling it was a sin to not have a bottle of a classic at hand. When I got home and opened the box, I was turned off to the fact that it has since been decanted in a plastic bottle... But I popped the stopper and took a big, strong whiff. It smelled just like I remembered it from the 90s being with my Dad in his 1973 Oldsmobile Omega. I welcomed it back with open arms. I even keep a bottle in my locker at work. Slapping it on for some added freshness late in the day will never get old.

    The plastic bottle does still bother me though... That's why I bought the Indian version. To me, it has an Old Spice kind of smell...but it doesn't stir up the same feelings as the American version.

    Now, that Old Spice Fresh Lime... wish that was sold in the states. It's my go-to summer scent.

    1. I think they still make the lime version in the Indian market, attainable through some different shaving sites (and Amazon) - but the smell of American OS is and always will be the best

    2. You're right. Even the gal pal likes the "sweeter and cleaner" smell of the American version. She didn't care for the "powdery" smell of the Indian.

      I have a brand new bottle of Old Spice from 1993 from my Dad. The smell is a bit stronger than a newer bottle. This leads me to believe that the aging of this juice is what causing people to believe the formula has been altered.

  11. This is a repost, I did not write this.

    Hi all, first post here. Some of you may know me from Badger and Blade, and for those that don't I'm a vintage aftershave and cologne aficionado as well as a chemical engineer. I've analyzed all eras of Old Spice, and this is the breakdown of the five different major reformulations of Old Spice.

    Original formulation (Schulton): From 1938-1990.

    Early P&G: (1990-1992): Essentially the same as Schulton, but with the removal of saccharine as one of the ingredients. Less "tart" than Schulton.

    First major P&G reformulation: (1992-2007): Added alcohol, less fragrance.

    P&G Plastic Bottle re-formulation (2008-present): Same amount of alcohol, substitution of genuine floral extracts for synthetic knock offs.

    1. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere yet, but for the first time I can recall, the "Old Spice Team" on the P&G Old Spice page admits to a formula change in "2016" which I feel should be more like 1996. If you load the commments here: https://oldspice.com/en/content/classic-after-shave, you'll find their reply on March 21, 2018:

      "We did change our scent in January of 2016 and as a longtime consumer, the last thing we want to do is let you down. We'd like nothing more than to keep you in the Old Spice family. When you have a moment, please give us a call so we can try to make this right: (877) 789-8865"

      You can also see it by scanning down this collage of reviews:

      One has to call the number during business hours. The recorded message after business hours doesn't even make reference to even being a P&G help line.

    2. The reformulation actually happened in the 1970s when American Cyanamid bought the licensing, although that formula was probably perceived as an improvement into a "burlier" 1970s macho scent with serious longevity. P&G probably toned it back down and removed some of the natural floral oils for overhead reduction. Any reformulation since 2016 is going to be a further reduction in any naturalness, because honestly I can't see Old Spice selling as well as it did even ten years ago, due to the preponderance of niche aftershaves that have flooded the market in the last five years. If you go old school, you probably favor Skin Bracer over Old Spice and Aqua Velva, because by many accounts SB still smells incredible.

      What I'd like to know is when the last major reformulation happened. When was the demarcation line between a full-throated Old Spice, and a "new," more synthetic OS drawn?

  12. I'm just surprised that P&G is finally willing to admit any reformulation. I had a mid 1990's P&G bottle of Old Spice that still had the Shulton name on it, and to my nose it was close to the earlier Shulton versions, if not the same formula. Sometime in the late 1990's they sweetened it and lessened the performance.

    As someone who started shaving in the mid 1970's, I've experienced all the classics. Skin Bracer is ok and Colgate Palmolive probably hasn't interfered with it, but it's a scent that doesn't last all that long. Now, L'Oreal (who owns the brand in Europe has done wonders with it and has kept it in glass bottles. Take a look at the collage I posted to Badger and Blade a few years ago: http://img291.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=24279_mennen_loreal_122_182lo.jpg

    As far as P&G's "Old Spice Team" goes, I inquired about some of the products in India awhile ago. They weren't even aware there were shaving cream tubes still produced for wet shavers and I'm not sure they even knew about the still excellent Lime and Musk aftershaves that Rubicon is manufacturing in India for P&G. The Lime dries down into a very nice, spicier version of the current USA OS aftershave. The musk has some decent lasting power. There's also a number of ingredients in the India version that aren't in the USA "Classic"version here: http://smartlabel.pg.com/00012044010693.html#ingredients

    The Rubicon version from India adds coumarin, eugenol. benzyl salicylate and a few other goodies. My only reservation is that they're adding diethyl phthalate to the aftershaves.

    I think there's still a large market for Old Spice as the hobby of wet shaving has been on a steady rise for the last decade. All the forums and Facebook groups "kvell" over vintage Shulton bottles of Old Spice. If Proctor and Gamble (and even Colgate Palmolive with Mennen and Combe with Aqua Velva) would just show some ingenuity and create novelty bottles, or limited edition glass bottles using the old formula of Old Spice, word would spread quickly among the community. Their marketing department should do some research and see how Shulton and Avon marketed their colognes/aftershaves with various flankers and gift editions. Times have changed. There's instant communication now. Word spreads quickly without a need for expensive advertising. P&G should use their site for direct sales. I have a feeling they might have several hundred thousand subscribers around the world who would buy anything they released in the way of novelty items.

    1. The problem OS has is that its "large market" still exists, but it is aging out of the target demographic of mainstream aftershave buyers. Do you think the majority of guys under 35 are even remotely interested in OS? They're interested in the brand because of all the kiddy scents they've pumped out in the last ten years. Stuff like "Wolfthorn" and "Bearglove" are what they see actually moving units. But the original aftershave is moving at a glacial pace among youngsters. Yes, there are a subset of the male youth population that are willing to give it a shot, but their interest is not matched by the continued intersest of guys in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Guys who will be dead far sooner than the youth market.

      I agree with you that P&G should do special edition glass bottles, decanters, and vintage themes. I have called for that in the past, and continue to. But OS is on the endangered species list. In the last three years alone, the niche aftershave market has exploded. Guys are more interested in finding an aftershave that smells like Aventus, not OS.

  13. If that's the case, P&G should do some gas chromatography on Aventus, or buy the rights to Fine Platimum and tinker with it so they can have about 10 flankers!

    All Old Spice needs is for Jeremy Fragrance to hold up a bottle in one of his videos, bring one of his luscious lovelies in to swoon over it, and before you know it, there'll be a run on it!

    If only it were that simple..

    1. Well, that's one approach lol, but I doubt that would help OS sales. My thought is this: if OS is not winning over younger buyers, then P&G needs to settle for people who are right at the edge of the cutoff point - i.e., people my age (36) and up to men in their 80s and 90s. That's still a roughly 60 yr spread that they can finagle out of the market, pretty good. Their issue is that they're not even trying to do that. Like you said, they're not taking OS to its limits: special editions, flasks, better ads, and where's the original OS bar soap? Nowhere to be found. That's a big problem. Instead of giving up on the product, as it appears they're doing, they should put their backs into making the product appealing to adults. Not everything has to be for kids in their teens and 20s who don't know better.


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