Monsieur Musk (Dana)

There are a few different bottle types for this fragrance, and mine is identical to the one pictured above. I believe this is an interim formula, released between the vintage opaque black glass of the nineties, and the newest silver/black label in clear glass that Dana currently advertises on their site. It's probably four or five years old.

Many people say the musk is a minor player here, but Monsieur Musk is all musk to my nose. It conjures the image of Tom Cruise in Risky Business with Ray-Ban shades and a lit Marlboro. Released by Houbigant in 1973, it was eventually acquired by Parfums Parquet, and wound up with Dana, the humblest of humble outfits, with no masculine beauties to their name - except this one. Somehow they've abstained from messing it up, and I'm happy to say it smells like a Vietnam-era musk bomb. It possesses a kind of suburban bordello raunch, replete with the animalic and floral underpinnings found in pre-Clinton era fougeres. Imagine if you could scissor off the musks of Paco Rabanne PH and bottle them, and that's MM. The experience is a dirty/clean/soapy redolence, pitching freshness against skank, and it smells dated, but very good.

I'm not so sure why, but I get a slight eighties vibe from this scent, hence the Risky Business reference. Its fake citrus note and Castile accent evokes the Whatchamacallit candy bar commercial, permed curls, boxy Thunderbirds, dad building shelves in the garage next to the Caprice with a pack of Newports tucked in his shirt. It was a simpler time back then, though one could say that this type of simple and old-school musk scent was passé by 1985. Still, it's incredibly cheap, very well made, and worth a bottle if you enjoy unembellished 20th century drugstore musks.


Silver Shade (Ajmal)

Throwing it.

I figure this will piss a few people off, but hear me out.

Al Wisam Day is not the best Silver Mountain Water clone. Ajmal Silver Shade is much, much better. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm momentarily enamored with Silver Shade. I'm not creating a hype train. I truly believe Ajmal made a better fragrance than Rasasi did. Let me explain.

I'll start with why I'm not the biggest fan of Al Wisam Day. To be clear, I really like AWD. I think it's a well made tea rose fragrance, with a modern twist. I wear it often. But there are things I don't care for. First, there's its considerable weight; Rasasi made a heavy perfume, in perfume concentration. This is puzzling, because Silver Mountain Water is light, ephemeral, and tuned to a pitch that's often hard to detect. So why did the nose behind AWD strive for density? When I want a powerhouse, I turn to the fougeres and orientals of the eighties, full of woods, spices, and resins. Repurposing SMW as a powerhouse goes against the philosophical underpinnings of SMW.

Second, Rasasi strayed too far from the source material. Creed's fragrance is citrus and blackcurrant with green embellishments (tea buds, violet leaf). It dries down to a gentle twinge of violet and ambergris. Creed's "Millesime" drydown is just Green Irish Tweed with less violet and more ambergris. The nose for Al Wisam Day didn't replicate that. The composion has little to no citrus, a preponderance of lavender, and dries down to a sandalwood and shampoo-floral base.

Lastly, Al Wisam Day has a "metallic" twinge in its top notes. This element is not in SMW. Olivier Creed greenlit a unique citrus accord, not knowing how difficult it would be to replicate. SMW's frigid citrus interacts with aldehydes and ambergris beautifully. It smells similar to a citrus snow cone, where the pertness is underscored not by juiciness, but by temperature.

I get strong tea rose in Rasasi's scent, buttressed on both ends by super-synthetic lavender, and synthetic sandalwood. It's very nice, but reminds me more of Tea Rose, and less of Silver Mountain Water. Enter Ajmal's Silver Shade, a fragrance with a name apparently inspired by Gene Tierney's scenes in The Shanghai Gesture.

Why isn't anyone talking about Silver Shade? Why are there no discussions about it on Fragrantica, basenotes, or in the greater blogosphere? This fragrance is excellent. Where other clones lose the thread, Silver Shade remains on point, and tells the whole story. From top to bottom, it is beautifully conceived. Its smooth opening is full of lucid citrus notes that are rendered as "coldly" as possible, without sacrificing naturalness. They smell crystalline, not metallic and cheap.

Eventually the citrus tapers into a restrained blackcurrant and green tea accord, with a carefully balanced violet note appearing in the blend. The tea is very shy, and manifests as a transparent greenness. The blackcurrant is dark, pert, semisweet. Its fruitiness is accompanied with violet, and avoids the sugared vulgarity of other clones. Eventually a peppery violet leaf asserts itself. This "masculine" note sends the heart into a sheer version of Creed's Green Irish Tweed base.

When people discuss this fragrance, they mention its poor longevity. I don't share that complaint. I get twelve hours out of it. It's not heavy. It's not overpowering. I can wear four sprays of this stuff, and not be overwhelmed. The folks at Ajmal understood that SMW is fresh and light. They read about the perils of reinventing the wheel, and appreciated the beauty of round things. The result smells balanced and kinetic. At the six hour mark, just when I suspect I'll encounter a pedestrian white musk, something lovely happens.

The drydown yields a delicate plum note, which is light enough to miss if you don't know it's there. It ushers in a base that smells just as lovely and unassuming. How many plum notes do we smell in the afterglow of modern unisex perfumes these days? So far I've only encountered this one. And I can't stress enough how discreet and gentle it is, with floral accents garnishing the fruit. The base smells expensive, which is ultimately why it succeeds as a clone - SMW is far from cheap.

Is Silver Shade a great replica of Silver Mountain Water? I think so. Captive molecules, a complex formula, and a huge budget made SMW a breakout scent. But perfumers have had 25 years to find viable shortcuts to its scent profile. You can weed through the novelty kitsch of Al Rehab Silver, the aquatic splash of Derby Clubhouse Blanche, or view Al Wisam Day through rose-colored glasses. None of them achieve the beauty of Silver Shade. At $20 a bottle, it's the deal of the century.