6/12/21

Club de Nuit Milestone (Armaf)

Eat your heart out, Laurice.

Youtube reviewers have a bad habit of jumping on bandwagons without actually using their noses, or their brains, for that matter. When Armaf released Club de Nuit Milestone in 2019, everyone was dazzled by the pageantry of its Millésime Impérial-like visual cues: the gold bottle, the folded company card under the box flap (just like Creed!), and the fact that its predecessor, Club de Nuit Intense, is a bestselling clone of Aventus. It walks like a duck, right? It must be one, then. So let's hop on the noisemaker, boys. We have to talk about how Milestone is an amazing clone of Millésime Impérial. La Dee Da. 

Well, guess what, Youtube? I smell a Bond no.9 frag here. Sure, the packaging is made to trick buyers into thinking they're in for a Creed clone, but the perfume itself is clearly a Bond. It's like Armaf cloned the top of Wall Street and conjoined it to the base of Chez Bond. Which makes sense, when you consider that Millésime Impérial is just a Green Irish Tweed with salty ozonic melons on top, and that Chez Bond is comparable to GIT, and that Wall Street is comparable to Millésime Impérial. But let's talk about why Armaf's decision to clone Bond frags, but then pretend they've cloned Creed frags, is genius. 

Armaf knows it can't afford to convincingly clone a Creed. But they know they can afford to convincingly clone a serial Creed-cloner brand like Bond. See, Bond doesn't use old-world maceration techniques and unicorn tears. Bond uses top-tier synthetics, which are pricy but not that pricy, and then banks on perception. What if Armaf did a GC analysis of Wall Street and Chez Bond, bought all the same chems, and hired a skilled perfumer to Tetris them into something 99% similar to both? The result is an hour of salty-sweet ozonic melons that smell amazing, followed by seven hours of milk-sweetened black tea and violets, which smell even more amazing. 

But Bryan, you cry, there's nothing impressive about cloning a Bond! Exactly. But Bonds smell pretty damn good. Like, grey market Bond prices good. About $130 a bottle good, to be exact. What if Armaf can give you the exact same experience for $40 instead? And since Bonds smell so luxurious, why not use that quality to convince buyers you've sold them a brand-killing clone of a Creed instead? Just shellac the bottle in rose gold, call it Milestone instead of Millesime, and let the dummies on Youtube do the rest. 

24 comments:

  1. Hopefully Bond No 9 doesn't hit you with their incessant litigious form of harassment. I keep picturing them having a team of lawyers in a firehouse, like that Simpsons episode when Homer was removed from the cult. Their fragrances are nice enough, but I can't stand the company

    About Milestone, I think it's a decent clone. Better than that Ed Hardy one, or Sean John Unforgiveable. The hype was a bit much, and it's not as potent as people claim it to be, but it's still decent. Especially considering there aren't as many Millesime Imperial clones out there.
    What does surprise me is the hype for the new SMW clone. Armaf already cloned it, and there are dozens of other clones already. Why would anyone pay 50 or 60 bucks for another Armaf clone of it?

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    1. I hope Bond considers the review a compliment lol, Chez Bond's drydown is one of the nicer interpretations of the "fresh eighties fougere" type scents on the market, and Armaf did well to copy it. Bond has developed a bit of a "bad rep" in the fragrance community, but I've decided to put politics aside with the brand and just explore them at will.

      Milestone is a good clone, it smells expensive, unlike other Armafs. Derby Clubhouse Blanche is in no way a terrific clone, but it smells good on its own merits. Apparently CdN Sillage is their new SMW clone - I agree that making another seems pointless, but whatever. Apparently it's working out for them. If it's half as good as people say it is, I suppose it makes sense.

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  2. The clone industry, and we, the buyers, never cease to puzzle me.

    The mentioned Bond and Armaf are solid copycats, they knows their trade, but they are still (mostly) copies. And not especially cheap ones, neither.

    Milton Lloyd, the brit contender, sells their stuff for about 4-5 bucks, and they're good. Even excellent, considering the price. Sometimes even better than the current original. But they're hardly known outside UK, and poorly distributed.

    Unlike the GIT/Cool Water/Aspen-trinity, which seems to me like brothers rather than mere copies, Armaf, Bond, Lloyd and others tries their best to create a cheaper version (not always inferior) of luxury brands.

    Beside the smell; what is the attraction? Because the brands obviously wears the "cool" tag, unlike certain tried and true chestnuts out there. What separates an excellent Kouros clone like The Silver Man (Lloyd) from an okayish Aventus clone like Club de Nuit Intense (beside the pricetag)?

    True, the Armaf looks better on the shelf, but it's still a clone.

    I suppose the buyer wants the feeling of luxury for less dough, but it's the hype I don't get a grip on. A Mercedes C was never really a Mercedes, it was a nice taxi. And bless it for that, but it's not an Mercedes S by far.

    I will buy good clones, and I will use them, but I'm not so sure if a $50-80 clone can defend itself in front of tried and true original warriors like Lagerfeld, Aramis, Armani, Oscar's Pour Lui etc, who's often way cheaper and better composed.

    Some of them even outdoes Creed.

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    1. The hype is usually centered on Creed clones. Creed is itself a hyped brand, probably because the quality is something unique there, although in 2021 there are roughly 500 niche brands with unique quality. But for the clones its exciting to people when something under $100 comes along that replicates a near-match for a Creed, simply by dint of the price differential. Is it warranted hype? Usually no. I recall when Derby Clubhouse Blanche was being hyped up, and while it was certainly nice, I found the never mentioned Ajmal Silver Shade to be far better.

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  3. It's clear from your review that Armaf is capable of making quality compositions, however I feel that 'cloning' fragrances that are still in production from the originating houses is really missing an opportunity. I understand they are catering towards customers that are looking for cheaper alternatives, even if like you mentioned they're not a close duplicate.

    I've been guilty of buying clones too but in the end, I feel that I'm only deceiving myself because no matter how close the clone is, it's the olfactory equivalent of a fake Louis Vuitton bag, Chinese Philippe Patek watch or Champagne made in LA.

    See, when I speak about missed opportunity, what I'm really saying is; why don't they make clones of Creeds that are discontinued? Gosh, I'd be really glad to buy an alternative to Royal Scottish Lavender or Bayrhum Vetiver...

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    1. That's an interesting point, Natan. Why don't they target the stuff people can't buy anymore? It would make more sense. But in a weird way I think these clone brands are trying to put Creed out of business, and you can only do that by targeting their current lineup. Why is a question I can't answer, however. I would point out that although I sympathize with your view on clones in general, I've never personally felt they're akin to knock-offs in other industries, nor have I ever felt cheated when buying and wearing them. To me the fragrance industry by nature precludes exclusivity in fragrance profiles and invites imitation by design. Some of the best clones are of cheap fragrances!

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    2. When I went to Egypt in 1999, I met a fella on the street who offered me genuine colognes of Boss, D&G etc. for merely pocket change.

      He also provided Rolex, Ray Ban and such for us greedy foreigners.

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    3. My opinion about clones may have been somewhat heavy-handed and you're right that it's not entirely akin to other industries. I guess my point is that if I want Millésime Impérial, I'd go for the real deal rather than looking for a cheaper alternative. If my budget doesn't allow it then I'd rather try and find something in whatever price range I can afford that can stand on its own merits.
      That being said, I do agree that in the perfume world things are a little more complicated than let's say comparing a genuine Rolex with a Chinese knock-off.

      However, when we speak about 'clone brands', we're not talking about those great perfumes that were inspired by others before them.

      I can't say if those clone brands want to single-handedly kill-off companies like Creed but I'm certain that they do capitalize on the fame and success of said companies... and that...

      That is precisely where I'm getting that knock-off feeling similar to other industries.

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    4. I think of fragrance as being along the same line as cars. For example, the 2000-05 Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue uses much of the same engineering as XJ Jaguars of the era, and indeed GM "cloned" the Jags until these cars were retired. Which basically means similar materials, very similar design and drivetrain engineering, but altogether cheaper and less powerful vehicles (but way easier to repair). If you wanted a Jag but couldn't afford it, or didn't want to deal with British mechanicals, the Buick was actually a smart alternative. So too it goes with those who find Chez Bond to be an attractive frag, but want something a little less "eighties boardroom" and a little more fun, and turn to Armaf's Milestone. You get the same overall design with slightly different styling, a few different materials, but it gets you where you want to go.

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    5. You make a valid argument and I can definitely see the automotive parallel. I used to drive a Lexus IS200, inline six cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive, double-wishbone suspension... it basically was a 3-series Beemer but with Toyota reliability and low maintenance costs. If it wasn't for my country's inflated road and whatnot taxes, I'd still be driving it today.

      In the end, I can see why people choose clones over the originals and some certainly apply to myself as well.
      Now, can somebody point me towards a good alternative to Dior's Eau sauvage?

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    6. I would refer you to Brooks Bros New York Gentleman, a sleek citrus with a nice clean finish and reasonable price tag. Nowhere near as “classic” as Eau Sauvage and has a significantly more contemporary feel, but smells like someone took ES and updated it on a bit of a budget. The fragrance feels classy and expensive for the first 3 hours, a little linear and deflated for the next 2 hours, and a touch cheap in the last hour, but overall it’s a decent scent.

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    7. Thank you, Bryan for your recommendation. Unfortunately it seems that Brooks Brothers New York Gentleman is quite the unicorn around here (and possibly even discontinued?). Still, I'll keep an eye out for it.

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  4. Carl Benz applied for a patent on a gas driven "engine" back in 1886, so in that regard every car that followed is simply a clone of Daimler-Benz.

    That goes for fragrance, too; when it became fashionable (and economically available) to the common backbone job-pusher back in the 30's, the industry caught on to whatever sold, be it florals or musks. In many ways the fragrance mirrored the culture; in our time it was the herbal 60/early 70's (good shit), the powerhouses of the 80's (greed is good!), the whimpy aquatics of the 90's (refuse to grow up), then into the goddamned gourmands of the 2000-something (sugar/Ritalin to keep up with the online gaming matches).

    Right now it seems there's a confusion going on, where fragrance is merely an afterthought of whatever pops up under the "popular" tag in the online stores. Eros and other wannabe's among them.

    A bottle named "Confusion" would probably appeal.

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    1. See my comment above. BTW your connecting Gourmands to Ritalin-abusing gamers is the best thing I've seen all year.

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  5. I guess it is just like in wild life: if a single animal starts limping, its days may just be numbered. The same must be happening to Creed - getting cloned like crazy, getting slowly replaced by Roja Dove as probably the "prime" niche brand, nor having a single "creative" product for roughly ten years...if its true what they say on the interwebs, that their fragrances become less and less coherent and lacking in performance, product-lifecycle-theory could just provide the appropriate explanations.

    I once got gifted a bottle of Aventus for Christmas after having thouroughly enjoying an official sample as a gift from a fragrance purchase. The bottle did not behave at all like the sample, not in smell, not in performance. This was pretty much the end of the line for me. Seriously, who wants to dump hundreds of bucks on a product that potentially isn't going to deliver?

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    1. So there's a complexity to that last issue you've mentioned that I've addressed before but will reiterate here. The "Batch Variations" of Creed are, in my opinion, a good thing for the brand, and the customer. I know this runs against most people's thoughts, but hear me out.

      Batch variations in perfume are relatively rare. Almost all of the mainstream niche and designer brands out there today provide consistency, at least within current formulas of their frags. That Creed bucked the trend and went with openly different batches was a stroke of genius. Not only are you getting an exclusive fragrance, but your bottle is also possibly one of a kind. I think that's a nice thing. If my Aventus has a little more pineapple and rose, and a little less birch bark and smoke, then that's my bottle - I know other people have bottles with more smoke, and less floral/fruity. To me this is charming. It's exactly what a $500 fragrance should offer. Some GITs have more minty Aspen-like crispness on top, and less sandalwood in the base, others are relatively straightforward lemon verbena and conventional sandalwood base, while still others are intense explosions of violet ionones and little else. To receive any one of these batches is to participate in the Creed reality of batch variations, a unique experience to the brand.

      To your point about lackluster creativity and flagging market share - agree entirely. Viking Cologne? Aventus Cologne? Flankers now? This is becoming a norm at Creed. Not good. The sale to Blackrock clearly hobbled the legacy going forward, and I seriously wonder where the brand will be in ten years. Their recent reissues of "grey cap" classics in the Acqua Originale line raises eyebrows as well. My experience with Asian Green Tea wasn't particularly memorable. My interpretation is the AO line is Creed's "cheap out" discount zone. That alone is a no-no in the world of top-tier niche. Never reinterpret once great frags as budget alternatives to the main line. You're telling the world you don't care.

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    2. I think your view on batch variatons is overly positivistic. It may just be a form of sunk-cost fallacy, where buyers just cannot admit to themselves, that they repeatedly dumped copious amounts of money on bullshit. Alas...a nasty topic. To me this is just bad QC and nothing else.

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    3. Maybe but your view of Quality Control is incorrect. Quality Control agencies within companies are meant to ensure the product meets or exceeds an objective standard of quality, i.e., it cannot be deemed 'defective.' So with perfume, this applies to a fragrance that smells bad, or defective, against the standard applied by the company. To my knowledge, the complaint you have with Creed, as it aligns to many other similar complaints, is about variations in fragrance dynamics, i.e. fragrances that smell similar to but not identical to each other. These would be variations in which note changes are most noticeable. This is an inevitable condition with perfumes that are made using old-world maceration techniques, with higher than average use of natural materials. Naturals are impossible to replicate exactly, the number of molecules per note is astronomical. Thus the use of naturals yields guaranteed variations in smell, batch to batch. Couple this with small batches and extended macerations techniques, and the likelihood of getting a mass produced perfume that smells exactly the same bottle to bottle is practically nil. It is reasonable to assume then that Creed's Quality Control standard is, and always has been, an objective desire to see batch variations, but to maintain each variation's quality independently. No perfume will smell exactly the same as the last, but no perfume will smell defective, either. By this metric, Creed is successful, and those who understand the deal when they buy Creed are okay with it. Those who aren't, or who misunderstand what QC is, tend to find fault.

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  6. I completely agree, that variations can occur, if natural ingredients are involved. But then again, in my mind, the goal should be to identify these variations beforehand and engage in a blending process that irons out deviations in the final product. How can it be justified, that there are a "batch variations" which lead to bottles of Aventus that have basically zero pineapple or rich ambergris base, but instead present themselves as a smoke-heavy mess that is gone after 4 hrs.?

    I find forum posts of Creed afficionados often quite revealing: objective discussions with some of these lads are quite impossible. They just want to believe and negative experiences of others are more or less due to batch variations and/or "bad skin chemistry". It is a cesspool of intellectual dishonesty of the highest order and one cannot get rid of the feeling, that a lot of these folks, who got a serious run-around, have developed something like an olfaction-based variation of stockholm syndrome.

    I am sorry...if it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, prolly is a duck.

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    1. A duck or a Mandarin duck?

      One can argue that some batches are to your taste or not, but that is why most Creed aficionados shop by batch number. Something Creed eagerly engages its customers in. Now in the BlackRock days, I don't know if the brand continues this tradition, or if the production process has been "streamlined" and batches are being eliminated. The only way that could happen is if materials were switched to nearly 100% synthetic and the maceration process was entirely modernized. Pre-BlackRock Creed was like a club. Everyone was welcome, but those who really "knew" Creed knew which batch was which and bought accordingly. Negative experiences were thus reduced across the board to those who weren't smart enough to sample first.

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    2. Where do you think Creed will go with its next fragrance? Maybe the middle-eastern market beckons?

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    3. Viking Cologne appears to be designed to appeal to the Western markets, although one might argue the Viking line isn't Creed's most successful moment. I haven't smelled the original or cologne version, but understand it's rather a "throwback" styled or "homage" type of scent, modeled on the crossroad of Old Spice meets Pasha, 1940s to 1980s. This hasn't really hit the target in America, and I imagine it's only marginally more popular in the rest of the Americas. Personally I find the idea of Viking to be appealing, and want to try it, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. In my mind the BlackRock takeover is incredibly troublesome with this brand, and I'm already seeing signs it was a mistake.

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    4. Viking is a rather harsh confection of pink pepper, patchouli and woody-amber dialed to 11. Quite loud and very early 1970s-ish. Have not sniffed the cologne version yet and am not planning to do so.

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    5. Loud pepper, patchouli, and woody amber? Early 1970s-ish? Sounds like my kind of fragrance!

      Of course if Creed's approach doesn't appeal, there's always Bond no. 9

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