Hot Spice (Arion Perfume & Beauty Inc.)

I did not expect to be writing this review, namely because I bought this fragrance at Dollar Tree for a whopping fifty cents an ounce. That's right - I bought a 2.5 oz cologne for $1. This is what people call a "dollar store scent." It is a dollar store scent. Why did I buy a dollar store scent? What could possess me to waste a dollar on an acrid, alcohol-scented piece of crap?

Well, for starters, I bought it based on how it smelled when I snuck a spray in the store. The plain grey box says, "compare to Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf." I figured it would smell briefly like something in Spicebomb's ball park, perhaps for fifteen seconds, and then vanish into thin air. But it really doesn't smell anything like Spicebomb. What it does smell like is a sweeter version of Indian Old Spice, with a creamier shaving foam drydown. If you "stack" this thing and apply multiple sprays to the same spot, you wind up with a nutmeg-laden gingerbread cookie effect. Go lightly with it and it has a cumin, black pepper, and pink pepper top, which dries into a gentle sugared sandalwood, with that abstract powdery sweetness of Old Spice.

This could easily be considered a replacement for any iteration of Old Spice, and I like it a hell of a lot better than Vi-Jon Spice Scent, which is not bad but definitely overrated in the wetshaver community. Vi-Jon dries into a plasticky synthetic nastiness that ruins the niceness of its top notes, but Hot Spice never loses its subtle spicy sweetness to any overtly synthetic overtones. I do get a little bit of a Joop! Homme or Individuel type of sweetness in the blend, but it isn't overbearing. The ingredients list says it has hydrogenated castor oil in it, and the liquid feels pretty soft on my skin, so I think it's a viable choice as an aftershave, which I will likely use it as in the coming months.

It's made in India, and I guess that explains the blast of skanky cumin accompanying the pepper notes on top. I'm shocked by the quality of this stuff, shocked that it smells complex enough for me to pick out eight different notes (cumin, pink & black pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, sandalwood, orange, and neroli), and completely shocked that it can compete with Old Spice for my affections.

If you live in the United States and have a Dollar Tree in your area, and you're into wetshaving and various "Spice Scent" aftershaves in the Old Spice vein, I suggest you get over there and see if they have a few bottles of Hot Spice. This stuff will make it into your shaving rotation, guaranteed.


Barbasol Brisk (Perio Inc.)

At least one Fragrantica member disagreed with me recently when I stated that Barbasol Brisk aftershave is a copy of Skin Bracer, which I thought was remarkable. If you're familiar with both aftershaves, you know that they both employ a fougere structure with prominent lavender and mint on top, a tingly coumarin in the heart, and a dry semisweet vanilla blended with a touch of clean musk in the base. Both are classic "wetshaver" scents with intensely cooling menthol that rivals even Myrsol's Formula K. Brisk may even have more than Formula K. It's a potent menthol splash, so if you're into menthol, you'll like this particular Barbasol product.

There are a few differences between Brisk and Bracer, not the least of which is Brisk's mintier quality; Skin Bracer has a mellowed top that focuses on lavender more than mint. Brisk truly lives up to its name, but Skin "Bracer," while indeed bracing after a morning shave, aims to give a guy more than just a briefly cold bite. I think of Mennen's formula as more of a thought out fragrance, with a distinct dynamism in the drydown that yields surprising depth, making it comparable to 1990s vintage Brut cologne. I always feel the smoothness of its lavender and vanilla accords "melding" into a subtle beauty. 

Brisk never quite gets that far for me. It makes a few of the same moves in the first five minutes, but eventually flattens out into a very one dimensional musky mint thing that feels good and smells nice enough, but isn't quite as arresting. Does it smell like Barbasol's original shaving foam? Not in the least. If you want a great reference for how the foam used to smell prior to reformulation, check out Rive Gauche Pour Homme. It's an anisic patchouli fern that accurately generates the familiar lavender, lime peel, and powder effect of a classic shave. Still, Brisk is fun if you can find it, and is recommended to anyone who enjoys old-school aftershaves.


Revisiting Red For Men

I've been meaning to return to this fragrance for a while now, and only recently found a large bottle of the latest formula at a discount store, so thought I'd give it another go. A few years back I reviewed an older formula in a smaller bottle that I now know had spoiled a bit, which accounted for the funky coriander-like "off" note in the first minute of wear that turned me off to subsequent usage (I gifted it to a friend).

The new stuff doesn't have that issue, and otherwise smells exactly as I remember it. Actually, it smells better. This "refreshed" and facelifted formula has no oakmoss, or even treemoss, yet somehow smells woodier than I remembered. The whole point of Red is to wear something both "fresh" and "earthy," with that familiar lavender deodorant effect of Drakkar Noir peering through a dense underbrush of late summer saplings poking out of seasoned evergreen logs. While technically a chypre, it's a bit disingenuous for anyone to deny that there are strong fougere elements in Red, with an obvious lavender note and coumarin in the printed ingredient list. And yes, it smells quite a bit like Preferred Stock, but softer, more textured.

It's hard to know exactly where Red fits into the world of 2017. Whenever I smell it I think of 1991. I was nine years old. My parents took me and my younger brother to Europe for the summer, and the highlight of the trip was peering out the car window while driving through Dublin and seeing a gorgeous redhead trot along the sidewalk wearing a skintight sweater and very clearly no bra. That and sitting by the beach in Strandhill eating ice cream. The world was simpler then; men were like my dad, strong and virile, and women embraced their femininity with brutal perfumes and short haircuts. Plus there were better movies and grunge rock.

I suppose I can see a potent but sedate patchouli chypre like Red for Men going well with the times. What I find discouraging is the lack of market initiative. With interesting fragrances like Preferred Stock, Red, Stetson Sierra, and Polo Crest now relegated to discount bins, you'd think a more current brand would take a risk and try reviving the style. I'm not an oud fan, but I could actually see oud working in this type of composition. I guess we must work with what we have.

Donald Trump is the leader of the free world, North Korea wants us all dead, Theresa May is the new Iron Lady, and Le Pen will hopefully prevail in France. Time to kick the globalists out and bring the old world and its charms back. Red for Men is a good place to start.