Rose 31 (Le Labo)

Le Labo is one of those super famous niche lines with a reputation preceding it, and very problematically at that. Approaching their perfumes, I'm reminded that their fragrances rarely smell like what they're named after. I'm also conscious of their subtler reputations for being a bit synthetic, and a bit weak, and perhaps more damningly, not especially complex. None of this dissuades me from liking Le Labo (Iris 39 is excellent), but it doesn't engender confidence. Expectation is the enemy of enjoyment, and if I expect to be disappointed, confirmation bias becomes a risk.

I needn't have worried with Rose 31. I like it. Not enough to ever buy it, or even to wear it again, but I appreciate what was achieved here. In a perfect world it would be called Vetiver 31, because it strikes me as being a vetiver fragrance with a hint of dry rose. That must be the reputation about names catching up with it. But the vetiver is well done, smelling very rooty and a bit green, with a smooth, woodsy character. Adding to the smooth woodiness are very clean notes of cedar, a hint of oud (synthetic oud, similar to the stuff found in Dirty English), and cool incense. The romance is delivered via musks, greens, and spices: white pepper, carrot seed, cumin, castoreum, and a bit of cold, powdery galbanum balance into a gauzy veil of earthiness, throwing shadow across the bright wood notes.

Poking through it all is the dry, bitter rose note. This is the same rose found in Van Cleef & Arpels PH, but here it's less intense, less prominent, more a suggestion than a statement. If you're a traditionalist about your rose fragrances, you won't care much for Rose 31. If you're interested in the mood that a dry, masculine rose note can evoke, this stuff is for you. I'm neither here nor there. I like or dislike rose frags as they come, and rarely do I find myself pining for this one. Is it too synthetic? It's obviously not natural, but I'm not bludgeoned by harsh aroma chemicals, either. Too weak? Yeah, maybe. Complex? Yes, in a linear way. It's nice, and well worth a sniff.


English Leather Appears To Be Discontinued

Looks like it'll have to be nothing at all.

Just a holiday observation: if you try to find a bottle of English Leather online, you are out of luck. Apparently stock is dried up, and Dana is no longer producing this classic. The bottle prices range from $24 to $120 depending on size, with the 8 oz jug costing about $100, and the 3.4 oz bottles anywhere from $23 to $75. This is sad, and frankly astonishing. EL used to be the easiest to find and cheapest to purchase. Even Dana's site has none available.

I can't believe that a seventy year-old fragrance, originally produced by Javier Serra and successfully sold by MEM until Dana's acquisition about twenty years ago, is suddenly no more. How could Dana drop the ball like that? What went wrong? Clearly this kind of fragrance is no longer popular, but then again neither are Old Spice and Brut, and they're surviving. What's Dana's excuse? They didn't want to bother lifting the brand up out of the dust of the 20th century, and now, instead of having it as a branch to profit from, it no longer exists.

I happen to have an 8 oz bottle of the cologne, which still contains about 7.5 ounces, and I guess I'll be holding on to it for years to come, as I rarely wear it. The color of the liquid has darkened considerably since I bought it, and upon sampling it yesterday, I found its sharp citrus notes and stark woody drydown have mellowed into a closer representation of the vintage scent. Hopefully another company revives the English Leather name, as it would be awful to think this scent is gone for good.


A Brief Note On Decanting Clubman Aftershave Into Glass, And Shaving Off 2018

"It smells better decanted." Anyone who frequents wetshaver circles knows that Pinaud Clubman aftershave has a reputation for smelling just a tiny bit like the plastic it's housed in. This never bothered me tremendously, but I always wondered if the introductory statement of this post was true - does it smell better decanted into glass? With the porous plastic chemicals removed from the equation, and just enough aeration of the aftershave occurring during the decanting process, I figured it was possible, so I bought a two dollar flask from TJ Maxx and decanted my Clubman.

The result is interesting. While it seems to lighten up (aerate?) the overall fragrance and accentuate the floral notes a bit, I still notice a slight plastic smell. However, the smell is greatly reduced, to the point where I have to look for it to notice it. That's in stark contrast to my experience straight from the factory bottle, where the plastic odor kind of smacks you right in the nose just after the sweet citrus top, but before the powdery oakmoss settles in. It reminds me of why P&G went to great lengths to devise a specially coated plastic bottle for Old Spice: no plastic odor. I would judge there's a seventy to eighty percent reduction in the plastic element when Clubman is decanted into a clean glass bottle. Given that the plastic problem was minor to begin with, I consider this a successful outcome and recommend decanting to anyone who enjoys using this particular Pinaud product. (I don't really get a plastic odor from the Classic Vanilla version, which is surprising.)

Before I go, I'll mention something that might interest my regular readers. You may have noticed a significant decrease in the number of posts this year compared to other years. One reason for this is that 2017 was an unusually busy year for me personally. But a bigger reason is that my interest in conventional EDTs and high end fragrances has waned a bit. I've owned and worn many of the classics, tested and sampled a slew of feminines, tried my hand at quite a few niche frags, and now find myself drawn to the concept of the "barbershop scent." Therefore 2018 will be focused entirely on classic barbershop aftershaves.

Expect to see one or two reviews per month, with things like the Lustray line and Osage Rub being reviewed. I've seen many experienced noses in fragrance forums, guys who enjoy their Tom Fords and Xerjoffs, turn green at the term "barbershop," saying they don't understand the label. What does a barbershop smell like? What makes a fragrance a "barbershop frag?" What does it mean to embrace 14 ounces of something that costs fifty cents an ounce? How did these dinosaurs of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s survive into the 21st century?

Stay tuned.

Update 1/14/18:

My decanted Clubman now smells completely free of plastic. It has been in glass for a month, and was my aftershave of choice today. During application, I noticed a couple of things. First, the overall scent has softened, becoming more powdery, and a vanilla note that I was previously unaware of has become evident. Second, the scent is a bit more evanescent. Altogether, I think the aeration of the aftershave was a good thing, and the benefits of decanting it are indisputably significant.


Clubman Classic Vanilla (Pinaud)

As I approach 2018, the alarming thought that I may have become outmoded seems increasingly prevelant. Consider this: I am a heterosexual white male in his mid thirties, I own a house and a full-sized Buick, I use a flip phone, I work full time but spend weekends with my girlfriend and family, and I keep cigarettes in the house in case guests forget theirs. By social justice warrior standards, I am a fucking dinosaur.

The hip(ster) kids of the perennially insulted twenty-teens believe in renting, freelancing, iPhones, Hondas, and vaping. I can't tell you how many twenty-something guys I've met who speak with a feminine lilt in their voice, punctuating every other word with "like," rarely making direct eye contact. They often wear skinny jeans, weirdly groomed facial hair, and never smell of anything, except maybe a dash of Axe deodorant, perhaps because they feel personal fragrance is offensive.

The landscape is populated with these "men" (and their vapid partners), and sometimes, in humorous attempts at small talk, they ask me what fragrance I'm wearing. I usually wonder what would happen if I were to break out a bottle of my SOTD and offer them some. Would I see their genitals instantly shrivel up into peanut M&M-sized knots under their skintight denim? Would the shock of being confronted with such unabashed testosterone cheesiness traumatize them enough to whiten their Keanu beards? Would they call me xenophobic? Would I have to apologize?

Clubman Classic Vanilla is the stuff of dinosaurs like me, but it's our secret weapon. It's the reason we still have our self respect. The shameless beauty in its simple melodic chord of lime peel, lavender, jasmine, coumarin, tonka, vanilla, and talc recalls Caron's Third Man and YSL's Rive Gauche, only simpler, quieter, more direct. This aftershave has wrinkled its share of powdered noses, but its cool talcum drydown is the purest incarnation of a wetshaver scent. When the last of the male SJWs is hospitalized for testicular torsion, the meek shall inherit the Earth.