Lauder for Men - Vintage 1980s Gold Cap Formula (Estée Lauder)

Here's one that I've enjoyed for a while, and yet I've neglected to mention it. Released in 1985, Lauder for Men was the American answer to Europe's vaunted Jules (1980) and Kouros (1981). It's perhaps a day late and dollar short to review such a monumental fragrance in 2020, decades after its time, and that far behind society's collective familiarity with it. However, the 1990s and 2000s saw a significant reformulation, and I thought it might be nice to reconsider the "vintage" gold cap formula that signifies the true gold standard of the brand.

Lauder for Men is what every aromatic fougère should be: a rich lavender and citrus accord, buttressed with a tonka note so complex it could be its own perfume. It reminds me of Moustache and Monsieur Rochas Concentrée, two fougères with expansive, natural-smelling coumarin notes that imbue their compositions with soft, grassy, hay-like aromas. Midcentury masculines relied on a careful balance between naturals and synthetics, with lab chemicals extending the silky freshness of citrus past the five minute mark, while also allowing lavender's opalescence into a dusky, oakmoss-extended base. In Lauder's scent a rather expensive burst of animalic honey and Meyer lemon is conjoined with lavender, petitgrain, anise, and juniper, which travel together through a vibrant, mellow, and truly beautiful coumarin. As if the tonka effect weren't enough, Lauder layered a luxurious bouquet of florals across this gorgeous wreath, with noticeable hints of jasmine and carnation wafting through.

As the aromatics settle, they coalesce into a mossy tobacco accord, which smells quite tailored and understated. This doesn't scream "TOBACCO!!!" like Havana does. It quietly radiates, an austere unisex tobacco leaf peeled from the cap of a pricy cigar. For me, Lauder for men conjures images of 18th century aristocrats lounging in a field, their powdered wigs reflecting warm spring sunshine. This is a languid, poised, and very rich composition, and it smells refined and natural, like what a fougère would have been in the 1700s. Perhaps Houbigant could learn a thing or two.


Stetson (Coty)

I reviewed Stetson back in 2013, but it was an awful review. I recently bought a bottle, and decided it was time to do it right. So let's get into this.

Stetson is an oddity. It's a cheap oriental marketed to men, but it smells like an old-fashioned feminine. Its top notes of malted lavender and citrus rapidly burn into waxy, candle-smoked jasmine and powdery woods. Simple pyramid, meritorious execution, efficient, plain, economical packaging. I've noticed that cheap masculines are often packed with notes, but Stetson harkens from a brief moment in perfumery history when companies were pushing budget formulas with compact pyramids, possibly because they realized it was better to render a few notes well, rather than many notes badly. The execs behind frags like Chaps, English Leather, and Stetson embraced this philosophy in the early 1980s, and it paid off.

But the 1980s are long over. How does Stetson work in 2020? Nobody will ever accuse it of being a great fragrance, but the jasmine note at its core is interesting. I love a good floral, and jasmine soliflores are among my favorites. The aldehydic jasmine in Chrome Legend is what shuttled it firmly into the "love" camp for me. Tea Rose Jasmin was another good one, now sadly gone. And that overripe, fruity, ethereal jasmine in Ocean Rain is truly incredible. So an old-school oriental with such an intense white floral note is endearing. Universal themes of cool morning dew (the fruited lavender) and afternoon warmth (leathery woods) create a successful sense of contrast in what would otherwise be flat gas station fare.

A fun thing to do when wearing a thirty-eight year-old fragrance is to envision the world in which it was released. Were young guys wearing Stetson to attract the local Phoebe Cates? Ms. Cates was our national treasure at the time. Disco was dead, The Cars and Tom Petty were on the radio, and Burt Reynolds was in his Charles Bronson Lite phase. But Stetson doesn't really smell like the eighties. It smells like the forties. It's a rip on Chantilly (Houbigant, 1941), and by proxy on Shalimar. So even in 1981, Stetson was an anachronism. Its quality made it a good value, and its marketing erased the potential for stigma. People were clever back then.

I wear Stetson more often than I thought I would. I figured I'd buy it and wear it once a year. I've used it about fifteen times in the past three months. It smells good. It wears beautifully. Its floral note carries solidly through the day, never losing clarity or balance. It's subtle enough to escape coming across as "perfumey." It's good stuff.

I recommend Stetson to any guy who wants a well-made oriental that won't break the bank. There are better orientals out there, but not for the money, and if you enjoy jasmine, few fragrances exploit the note as well as this one. Two thumbs up.