4/14/17

Al Rehab "Avenue" Alcohol-Free Concentrated Perfume Oil (Crown Perfumes)




In light of the fact that Creed will soon raise prices again on their entire fragrance line, now might be the time to consider getting into other things. If some of those other things include "clones," so be it. When it comes to Creed clones, choices abound. There are ten times more Creed clones than Creed fragrances, with every recent release getting at least a dozen copycat iterations at various price points. Which brings me to Al Rehab.

A faithful reader of this blog has recommended on several occasions that I try Crown's take on Aventus, named "Avenue." I approached Avenue with an open mind, expecting a typical Al Rehab-style execution of a Creed. Which is to say, I expected it would approximate Aventus pretty well, but as with Silver to SMW, figured it would smell much simpler. In truth, Avenue does resemble Aventus, but when I break it down in detail I find it is very much its own fragrance, with its own unique characteristics.

I consider Aventus a conceptual perfume. The concept is "success," and Creed's idea of "success" is to smell literally like dollar bills. After an hour on my skin, that's what Aventus smells like. Sure, I get the pineapple on top, along with red apple, citrus, birch, rose, oakmoss, and vanilla. Eventually the rubbery rose, the dry birch, and the bitter moss coalesce into a "clean smoke" kind of accord that flattens over time, until it smells like Federal Reserve ink. American money has a very distinct dirty-clean aroma, and Aventus captures it perfectly.

Avenue more or less achieves the same effect after a few hours on skin, so in this regard it is quite similar to Aventus, although Avenue's smokiness is from a dry patchouli note instead of moss and birch. That said, I think Avenue is much "fruitier" and far more citrus oriented than Aventus ever was, in any of its batches. The fruits in question are bergamot and lemon.

Avenue is bursting at the seams with crisp, vibrant bergamot, and conveys this note with such clarity and surprising quality that I'm shocked I haven't seen more accolades for Avenue from citrus fans. If you enjoy rich hesperidic scents, this scent should wow you.

Interestingly, Avenue has no pineapple or apple notes. So if you blind buy it hoping for a cheaper, more focused take on Aventus-styled pineapple, you'll be disappointed. The absence of pineapple definitely puts some distance between Avenue and Creed, to the point where I wonder if they were even trying to clone Aventus at all. But I prefer bergamot and lemon to pineapple, so this doesn't bother me.

When you think of Aventus, you automatically think of pineapple. When I think of Avenue, I can't help but think of bergamot. I believe there's even a subtler hint of Sicilian lemon blended into it, which makes the citrus effect that much more pronounced. At its price point I can safely say that anyone who wants a great citrus scent for pennies on the dollar would be remiss to not try Avenue. This is citrus heaven. I imagine enjoying this immensely on a sunny summer afternoon at a beach in Italy.

Also notable are quiet notes of silver frankincense, pine, and patchouli. The citrus explosion on top of Avenue lasts about twenty or thirty minutes, before segueing gradually into a very light accord of frankincense and pine. For a few seconds this early drydown stage resembles Pine Sol cleaning detergent, but fortunately the patchouli and frankincense rebalance things, and any chemical nastiness is short-lived. But look, that's the budget making itself known. What do you expect, right?

After an hour the patchouli, still heavily tinged with citrus, begins to "smoke up" the scent a bit, and the dollar bills idea appears. Here is where Avenue really resembles Aventus. It doesn't have the dry rose or the lucid birch notes of the Creed, but patchouli and incense can do interesting things, and here they shine.

Would I strongly recommend Avenue to someone seeking a faithful Aventus clone? Not really. I would mention it, however. I would say that Aventus is a concept that can be stretched and pulled into a few different directions, and one direction is to loosely take the concept of any fruit and mate it to something earthy and a bit "smoky." Avenue takes different fruits, distinctly tart citrus fruits, and tows them into that same "smoky" Aventus-like direction, without coming across as an obvious dupe.

I certainly would hasten to point out that Avenue is one of the best citrus bargains out there. Unlike other Crown oils I've tried, the fruits in Avenue actually smell like genuine citrus oils, and emit a feeling of depth and quality rarely found in fragrances that cost ten times as much, let alone Crowns' asking price of a few cents per milliliter.

This is a simple composition that achieves a sophisticated effect for the price of a bergamot at the supermarket. Buy it, wear it, and enjoy it. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain with Avenue. It's hands down the best Al Rehab I've tried.

Just don't tell people you're wearing Aventus. There's no point - Avenue smells great on its own merits, and deserves full credit for it.



4/7/17

Rethinking Jovan Musk (As An Aftershave)





About six years ago I got into the two big Jovan masculines: Musk and Sex Appeal. I liked and enjoyed both, but preferred Sex Appeal by a wide margin. Its rich patchouli-herbal twang, bolstered by a surprisingly mellow lavender note, simply worked for me. It helps that its fragrance profile is closely aligned to more classical orientals of its era, namely Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur and (a bit later) Ungaro Pour L'Homme II. I can wear either of those two fragrances and use Sex Appeal aftershave without conflict.

Musk for Men was always a tougher sell. For one thing, it doesn't match well with anything, except maybe Lagerfeld Classic, and even then it's risky. Musk is also an unreliable performer; I've worn this fragrance enough to know that it can be like wearing three different fragrances, a gamble not entirely welcome when personal insecurities accompany me to my wardrobe in the morning. The stuff changes between wearings. Some days it's a grassy floral musk, and others it's a skanky, semi-animalic beast. And every blue moon it smells like the freshest, cleanest laundry detergent money can buy. That kind of split personality is a little unnerving.

It's been about four years now since I smelled it, and I recently happened across a super cheap bottle of Musk in aftershave concentration, so I decided to revisit my memories of the fragrance. My prior bottle was just the cologne concentration, and I always wondered about the splash. I have to say, I'm not disappointed. As an aftershave it performs exactly like Sex Appeal, with a gentle alcohol snap and bracing herbal camphor.

Jovan is, contrary to popular belief, a decent brand. They make surprisingly complex fragrances with good performance and longevity, they're adequately priced, and most importantly, they're memorable. Once you smell Musk for Men, you can't forget it. Ditto Sex Appeal. (I guess Black Musk is discontinued - I haven't seen it in a while.) Ginseng NRG isn't too bad either, although it really only works in the summer. Musk for Men's aftershave splash smells like I remember the cologne on its best days - rich, sweet, citrusy, slightly floral, with a shimmery skin musk in the old world tradition of Aqua Velva and Max Factor.

I don't consider this a must have fragrance for musk lovers. If you're really into musk, and you're interested in the incredible places it can take you, Kouros, Azzaro Pour Homme, Paco Rabanne, and vintage Brut will get you there faster. My feelings for this Jovan have gone from a half-hearted "like" to a whole-hearted "like a lot," by virtue of the aftershave concentration. Something about the extra dilution and sturdier carrier oils eases up the scent structure and allows the best aspects of the pyramid to relax and shine. You wear Musk for Men not because you want the best musk, but because you want an easy musk.

The retro seventies packaging and fragrance style are an added bonus, but then again that's why I like Jovan. I feel like William Holden in Breezy whenever I splash this sort of stuff. And that's not a bad thing.





4/2/17

What's With All The Aventus Clones?



When Pineapple Vintage was released last year, I quite literally threw up my hands and said to myself, "What the fuck?" It was as if the last truly popular idea in perfumery had been appropriated, rather like a "found object" in postmodern conceptual art (or if you prefer, Rauschenberg's existential "combine paintings"), and carelessly pasted to any upstart niche brief. This has been accelerating in the last four of Aventus' seven year lifespan, yet none of the clones have supplanted their template as the ideal "pineapple scent" of the decade. Club de Nuit Intense by Armaf seems to get the most votes on Fragrantica, but recent talk of Pineapple Vintage pushed it over the edge for me. Enough already.

Creed has always been a trendsetter, so in this respect Aventus is nothing new. But prior Creeds impacted the designer market, spawning one or two commensurately successful fragrances that either mainstreamed or floundered. Original Santal birthed the equally popular Mont Blanc Individuel (well, brought it to everyone's attention). Millesime Imperial became Acqua di Gio. Green Irish Tweed is Cool Water's blueprint, and sadly Cool Water is now all but dead. See the pattern? The obscure became the ubiquitous. But so far Aventus hasn't been "found" among designers, and I find this rather strange. Where is the Chanel, the Dior, the YSL frag that attempts to replicate the supposed beauty of Creed's smoky-woody pineapple structure? Why is the commercial exploitation constrained by the niche market?

My theory is that this fragrance isn't really as groundbreaking as its "fans" seem to think. Aventus is one of those "you had to be there" fragrances. You had to be there when it was released to remember exactly what happened. Its initial reception was not dissimilar to Bleu de Chanel's and Dior Sauvage's. At first guys were critical. They called Aventus "Creed's designer scent." The number one complaint was that it "Smells like a designer frag." This went on for months. My impression of this publicity was that Creed had finally tired of fidgeting around with the pretense of being a niche brand, and had openly accepted their quasi-designer status with a representative product, signaling a company transition to top-tier mainstream.

But then something interesting happened: Aventus became the "Holy Grail" scent. Bros everywhere were snapping their jock straps to get a whiff of this stuff. And within a year, Aventus was Creed's biggest hit, even bigger than GIT. How do you go from being a derided "designer" scent, to being the best thing since sliced bread? Easy. Just let the natural course of price point dictating value perception happen under its own steam. Had Aventus been released by Armaf first, nobody would have known it existed, and those who did would just think it was a nice inexpensive niche scent. But slap a $300 price tag on it, and suddenly the banal becomes fascinating. The lowly pineapple note, once used to excess in frags like Lapidus Pour Homme and Boss Number One, was suddenly metrosexual and "new."

What gets tiring is the persistence of the leech brands in cloning this thing. Yes, a dry pineapple note mixed with a bitter smoky accord and a hint of VC&A-like rose is quite pleasant, but enough to eschew original ideas for it? I personally don't think Aventus is that good. I like it, and can appreciate the balmy fruits against the November backdrop, but in the end it just smells like a well-made "crowd pleaser," in the same vein as Bleu de Chanel.

Cynical attempts to cash in on Aventus' popularity are clear examples of just how similar the niche world is to the designer. When something sells, everyone else wants a slice of the pineapple pie. Just be prepared to pay a little more for it.