6/30/16

Kouros Silver (Yves Saint Laurent)


Himalaya wants its packaging back.


Roughly one year after its release, I finally find the time to convey my definitive impressions of Kouros Silver. I say "definitive" because it's taken me a long time to decide how I feel about this fragrance, and why I feel the way I do. There has been some waffling, some head-scratching, some more waffling, some chin rubbing, and I may have ground a millimeter from my molars trying to put this into words, but as the Bee Gees once said, "words are all I have," so here it goes. Bear with me.

I want to hate this fragrance without any reason for it, other than a personal dislike for the scent alone, but it's more complicated than that. You see, when you smell and wear as many fragrances as I have, you reach a point where your response to things can't be summed up by the Yes/No sign behind Robert De Niro in Casino, but not because a simple "yes" or "no" fails for you personally. It just gets, well, a little deeper than that, or maybe a better way to put it is to say it gets a little more technical.

Kouros Silver, in my personal opinion, is a terrible fragrance, but if we're going to dwell on the personal for more than a sentence or two, I'd add that I dislike this "type" of fragrance more than any individual scent representing it. I can't stand the "sweet," the "sticky," the blatantly "chemical," and all the motherfucking Aryan Nations musks that are both front AND backloaded into these things. What scares me is that the lineage for Kouros Silver traces back in the short term to equally terrible fragrances, which is bad enough, but when you continue to follow the bloodline, you actually get to some truly great perfumes that every hardcore enthusiast loves, and that's what changes the tone from a Sesame Street bedtime story into something the Brothers Grimm crept themselves out with and didn't even want to publish.

In the short term, the fragrance that started this madness was Versace's Eros, back in 2012, when someone decided to sweeten a stock formula woody amber accord with some vaguely fruity ester, and called it "apple." Between Eros and Silver are minor travesties like Joop! Homme Wild (which I actually don't dislike), Man.Aubusson Intense, and Cool Water Night Dive, with the latter two being circular reasonings on why vaguely synthy-fruity woody ambers buttressed between shitloads of laundry musks are "youthful" and "contemporary," as if these terms mean the same thing.

So yeah, a big yawn. And if we go back further than Eros, we touch on - oh hey, wait, WAIT A MINUTE HERE! Wait just ONE FUCKING MINUTE. Fruit? Woody ambers? White musks? Weird, synthy, gourmand-ish olfactory illusions using wood notes and musks that are so sweet they almost smell edible? Individuel? Witness? Aubusson Pour Homme? Feeling Man? Joop! Homme? Balenciaga Pour Homme? SKIN BRACER???? How did we get here? This can't be right. No, break out the map again, we gotta double-check. There must be a mistake. I must've - wait, no, no, no, no, no. No. STFU. WTF? And any other letter combo that annoyingly turns a foul-language phrase into an awkward acronym.

Eventually, the realization crystallizes: yes, unfortunately yes, there are classic underpinnings to these grotesque chemical designers. From deep within terpene-laden green-woods accords, found in things like Yatagan and Quorum, were coumarin-tinged musks that whispered sweet whimsies on winds that grew ever muskier with time. By the late eighties and early nineties, the musks had become so animalic and multi-faceted that their interaction with piney notes, incense, and woods developed illusory fruity aspects, with apple and pineapple effects in Balenciaga and Feeling Man, apple pie hallucinations in Aubusson PH and Witness, and sweeter, violet-like heliotrope in Joop! Homme and Individuel, all perfumes that smell incredible on their own terms.

This is how my mind shifted through its gears with Kouros Silver wafting from my collar. All of my personal experiences with fragrances, both new and old, somehow connected to this oddball contemporary style of masculine perfumery that I've grown to detest. It's as if, after all the wonderful experiments with truly skanky musk molecules ceased, the perfumers decided to pare everything down to two adjectives, "sweet," and "clean." The result is something that smells, to me anyway, very thick, unpleasant, blob-like, chemical, and unbearable after five minutes.

And yet, despite that, some objectivity kicks in. I consider the qualities of this style, gleaned from various frags, that appeal to me in even the most fleeting way. The clarity of the green apple in Man.aubusson Intense. The synthetic, Skin-Bracery fougères in Joop! Homme Wild and Night Dive. The ghost of animalism in that extra layer of musk that baaarely makes it into the first ten seconds of Kouros Silver. Despite all its repulsiveness, I can kinda, sorta get why the youngsters like this sort of thing. It's generational. This fragrance really erupted four years ago, and now it's becoming its own thing, and guys a lot younger than me are wearing it. I don't really understand why they prefer Kouros Silver to something like Balenciaga Pour Homme, but maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe I'm not supposed to get it. Maybe it's enough that I just acknowledge that someone, somewhere, likes this shit.

I don't like it, and I'd never wear it, and I could get into how, for me, this style is better found on drugstore shelves in aftershaves in much lower concentrations, or how sad it is that L'Oréal is stooping to this kind of boardroom-tested "safe" formula approach with a brand as gargantuan and legendary as YSL, but that's what Fragrantica and basenotes are for. On my blog, I'm satisfied with telling you that I understand Kouros Silver's existence, and maybe even its appeal to a certain demographic. But between you and me, with everything I know and understand about perfume fully in check, I don't approve of it at all.


8 comments:

  1. I've noticed a lot of fashion and perfume houses (like Guerlain, Lancome, even Jovan) putting out fragrances that seem specifically designed to appeal to the younger demographic whom are making the transition from Bath & Body Works type scents to "real perfume." Guerlain's numerous candy-fied super fruity "La Petite Robe" flankers are in this vein. Even Jovan put out what I call an "oudh with training wheels" or sort of candy coated oudh with their "Intense Oudh" (which isn't very intense compared to the Arab oudh attars I've suffered on flights to Bahrain & Dubai).
    One of my sons came home from soccer camp in Florida with a bottle of Abercrombie & Snitch's "Fierce." I gave it a sniff, it seemed like the lemon and musk combination from good old Jovan "Musk for Men" updated with a hefty dose of Iso Super E. Not bad, nothing exciting IMHO but I did get a kick out of a "macho & sexy" 70's scent being updated for today's youth.

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    1. Intense Oud is something I'll get around to reviewing soon. From everything I've read, it sounds like a failed experiment. I want to do a direct comparison with a certain niche oud scent to see exactly how close to success it gets.

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  2. I thought the whole oud trend would have died already, but it seems like it's still spreading.
    I don't have any problem with all the ouds out there. It might even help me smell less alien when I'm wearing attars; which I often do (though these Western oud scents aren't nearly popular enough for that to happen). I just can't help but roll my eyes when some fragrance house adds synthetic oud and rose to a fragrance, and all of a sudden it's luxe and costs a lot more than the mainstream lines.

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    1. I think oud is a Middle Eastern perfume concept that is ever popular and ever growing in the Middle East and proximate cultures (perhaps parts of southern Eastern Europe), but in the West, particularly in the United States, oud has failed to truly gain popular traction.

      My theories on why this is are abundant and pretty lengthy in scope. One that I'm fairly confident about is the idea that oud is a "neither here nor there" type of note. When you think about perfumery concepts that have caught fire in Europe and America in the last thirty-five years, you get into two polar extremes: "fresh" and "skanky."

      "Skanky" - all those green, fetid, animalic musky masculines and indolic feminines of the eighties and early nineties, and even the handful that made it into the 2000s, had obvious benefits and downsides to wearers, but if you wanted that edge, you chose something like Kouros, Moustache, Boucheron (feminine), Orange Spice, etc.

      If you wanted "fresh," well, I don't even need to list those. There's thousands of them, many born in the late eighties and nineties.

      But oud is not really full-on "skanky," and definitely not "fresh" in any conventional sense, although when it is treated carefully and mated to frankincense and certain synthetics like Iso E Super, it can SOMETIMES (extreme emphasis on 'sometimes') take on a slightly fresh feel, as it does in Dirty English, which has a very judiciously-blended and transparent oud note. Still, if you consider the popularity of Dirty English against other similar scents, you find an unsurprising lack of enthusiasm for it, with a healthy modicum of respect, and certainly it has its fans. But there's no urge in designer brand boardrooms to try and "mainstream" oud the same way they drowned everyone with Calone and dihydromyrcenol years ago. It's hard to figure who would gravitate to its smell.

      Having experienced synthetic ouds in isolation, I stand by my assertion that they ultimately don't smell very good.

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    2. "I just can't help but roll my eyes when some fragrance house adds synthetic oud and rose to a fragrance, and all of a sudden it's luxe and costs a lot more than the mainstream lines."

      I really think that's a not very well thought out concept to appeal to Arab buyers. Arabs (especially in the UAE & Qatar) are crazy for oud. Even though the mouldy tree that the "best" oud is obtained from comes from India - Indians do not care for oud. Arabs aren't going to to buy crappy synthetic oud no matter how fancy the bottle or renowned the perfume house. I've not sniffed any synthetics that come any where near the complexity of the high quality oud the Arabs love.

      Oud smells rather medicinal to western noses - that doesn't sell.
      Just like Indians don't like patchouli scents because it's used in so many ayurvedic cough and cold preparations - it would be like wearing a perfume that smelled like Vick's Vapo-Rub for us western folks.

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    3. Well some Arabs must like crappy oud, because Crown Perfumeries is doing a ripping business over there!

      One thing that puzzles me about oud is that its use in perfumery has never been celebrated even when it is successful in Western compositions. For example, there is a clear oud note tucked deep within Balenciaga Pour Homme, but it's so blended that you really have to pick the thing apart to find it and identify what kind of oud it is, and it isn't even worth mentioning in any reviews because 99.9% of wearers would never smell the oud in Balenciaga PH anyway. It's used as a "textural note" of sorts. But why? If it's such an interesting note, why not give it more of a starring role?

      I believe it has something to do with how people perceive it in isolation: harsh, medicinal, as Bibi points out.

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  3. Crown does do well, but their fragrances are nearly free (though they do have some expensive ones too). Their compositions are also pretty good in their own right, although the sprays are supposedly vastly inferior to the oils.
    My friends from Saudi Arabia do like the cheap attars, and one said YSL's M7 is his all time fav, but it's not because of the oud. They're just good fragrances and the oud isn't really unpleasant. It just doesn't compare to the real ouds. Kind of like enjoying a cedar that smells like pencil shavings,as well as also enjoying a natural,spicy,resinous cedar

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    1. Yeah I think there's a definite "range" in which oud is enjoyed for people in that part of the world, as well as in the West. I think oud and rose is a good combo, actually. I love rose, and I think the darker, drier aspects of rose, even headspace rose, pairs well with the woody quality of oud. My challenge is finding an oud fragrance that (a) smells like real oud, and (b) is something I could wear to work without getting yelled at by my coworkers.

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