4/14/17

Al Rehab "Avenue" Alcohol-Free Concentrated Perfume Oil (Crown Perfumes)




In light of the fact that Creed will soon raise prices again on their entire fragrance line, now might be the time to consider getting into other things. If some of those other things include "clones," so be it. When it comes to Creed clones, choices abound. There are ten times more Creed clones than Creed fragrances, with every recent release getting at least a dozen copycat iterations at various price points. Which brings me to Al Rehab.

A faithful reader of this blog has recommended on several occasions that I try Crown's take on Aventus, named "Avenue." I approached Avenue with an open mind, expecting a typical Al Rehab-style execution of a Creed. Which is to say, I expected it would approximate Aventus pretty well, but as with Silver to SMW, figured it would smell much simpler. In truth, Avenue does resemble Aventus, but when I break it down in detail I find it is very much its own fragrance, with its own unique characteristics.

I consider Aventus a conceptual perfume. The concept is "success," and Creed's idea of "success" is to smell literally like dollar bills. After an hour on my skin, that's what Aventus smells like. Sure, I get the pineapple on top, along with red apple, citrus, birch, rose, oakmoss, and vanilla. Eventually the rubbery rose, the dry birch, and the bitter moss coalesce into a "clean smoke" kind of accord that flattens over time, until it smells like Federal Reserve ink. American money has a very distinct dirty-clean aroma, and Aventus captures it perfectly.

Avenue more or less achieves the same effect after a few hours on skin, so in this regard it is quite similar to Aventus, although Avenue's smokiness is from a dry patchouli note instead of moss and birch. That said, I think Avenue is much "fruitier" and far more citrus oriented than Aventus ever was, in any of its batches. The fruits in question are bergamot and lemon.

Avenue is bursting at the seams with crisp, vibrant bergamot, and conveys this note with such clarity and surprising quality that I'm shocked I haven't seen more accolades for Avenue from citrus fans. If you enjoy rich hesperidic scents, this scent should wow you.

Interestingly, Avenue has no pineapple or apple notes. So if you blind buy it hoping for a cheaper, more focused take on Aventus-styled pineapple, you'll be disappointed. The absence of pineapple definitely puts some distance between Avenue and Creed, to the point where I wonder if they were even trying to clone Aventus at all. But I prefer bergamot and lemon to pineapple, so this doesn't bother me.

When you think of Aventus, you automatically think of pineapple. When I think of Avenue, I can't help but think of bergamot. I believe there's even a subtler hint of Sicilian lemon blended into it, which makes the citrus effect that much more pronounced. At its price point I can safely say that anyone who wants a great citrus scent for pennies on the dollar would be remiss to not try Avenue. This is citrus heaven. I imagine enjoying this immensely on a sunny summer afternoon at a beach in Italy.

Also notable are quiet notes of silver frankincense, pine, and patchouli. The citrus explosion on top of Avenue lasts about twenty or thirty minutes, before segueing gradually into a very light accord of frankincense and pine. For a few seconds this early drydown stage resembles Pine Sol cleaning detergent, but fortunately the patchouli and frankincense rebalance things, and any chemical nastiness is short-lived. But look, that's the budget making itself known. What do you expect, right?

After an hour the patchouli, still heavily tinged with citrus, begins to "smoke up" the scent a bit, and the dollar bills idea appears. Here is where Avenue really resembles Aventus. It doesn't have the dry rose or the lucid birch notes of the Creed, but patchouli and incense can do interesting things, and here they shine.

Would I strongly recommend Avenue to someone seeking a faithful Aventus clone? Not really. I would mention it, however. I would say that Aventus is a concept that can be stretched and pulled into a few different directions, and one direction is to loosely take the concept of any fruit and mate it to something earthy and a bit "smoky." Avenue takes different fruits, distinctly tart citrus fruits, and tows them into that same "smoky" Aventus-like direction, without coming across as an obvious dupe.

I certainly would hasten to point out that Avenue is one of the best citrus bargains out there. Unlike other Crown oils I've tried, the fruits in Avenue actually smell like genuine citrus oils, and emit a feeling of depth and quality rarely found in fragrances that cost ten times as much, let alone Crowns' asking price of a few cents per milliliter.

This is a simple composition that achieves a sophisticated effect for the price of a bergamot at the supermarket. Buy it, wear it, and enjoy it. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain with Avenue. It's hands down the best Al Rehab I've tried.

Just don't tell people you're wearing Aventus. There's no point - Avenue smells great on its own merits, and deserves full credit for it.



4/7/17

Rethinking Jovan Musk (As An Aftershave)





About six years ago I got into the two big Jovan masculines: Musk and Sex Appeal. I liked and enjoyed both, but preferred Sex Appeal by a wide margin. Its rich patchouli-herbal twang, bolstered by a surprisingly mellow lavender note, simply worked for me. It helps that its fragrance profile is closely aligned to more classical orientals of its era, namely Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur and (a bit later) Ungaro Pour L'Homme II. I can wear either of those two fragrances and use Sex Appeal aftershave without conflict.

Musk for Men was always a tougher sell. For one thing, it doesn't match well with anything, except maybe Lagerfeld Classic, and even then it's risky. Musk is also an unreliable performer; I've worn this fragrance enough to know that it can be like wearing three different fragrances, a gamble not entirely welcome when personal insecurities accompany me to my wardrobe in the morning. The stuff changes between wearings. Some days it's a grassy floral musk, and others it's a skanky, semi-animalic beast. And every blue moon it smells like the freshest, cleanest laundry detergent money can buy. That kind of split personality is a little unnerving.

It's been about four years now since I smelled it, and I recently happened across a super cheap bottle of Musk in aftershave concentration, so I decided to revisit my memories of the fragrance. My prior bottle was just the cologne concentration, and I always wondered about the splash. I have to say, I'm not disappointed. As an aftershave it performs exactly like Sex Appeal, with a gentle alcohol snap and bracing herbal camphor.

Jovan is, contrary to popular belief, a decent brand. They make surprisingly complex fragrances with good performance and longevity, they're adequately priced, and most importantly, they're memorable. Once you smell Musk for Men, you can't forget it. Ditto Sex Appeal. (I guess Black Musk is discontinued - I haven't seen it in a while.) Ginseng NRG isn't too bad either, although it really only works in the summer. Musk for Men's aftershave splash smells like I remember the cologne on its best days - rich, sweet, citrusy, slightly floral, with a shimmery skin musk in the old world tradition of Aqua Velva and Max Factor.

I don't consider this a must have fragrance for musk lovers. If you're really into musk, and you're interested in the incredible places it can take you, Kouros, Azzaro Pour Homme, Paco Rabanne, and vintage Brut will get you there faster. My feelings for this Jovan have gone from a half-hearted "like" to a whole-hearted "like a lot," by virtue of the aftershave concentration. Something about the extra dilution and sturdier carrier oils eases up the scent structure and allows the best aspects of the pyramid to relax and shine. You wear Musk for Men not because you want the best musk, but because you want an easy musk.

The retro seventies packaging and fragrance style are an added bonus, but then again that's why I like Jovan. I feel like William Holden in Breezy whenever I splash this sort of stuff. And that's not a bad thing.





4/2/17

What's With All The Aventus Clones?



When Pineapple Vintage was released last year, I quite literally threw up my hands and said to myself, "What the fuck?" It was as if the last truly popular idea in perfumery had been appropriated, rather like a "found object" in postmodern conceptual art (or if you prefer, Rauschenberg's existential "combine paintings"), and carelessly pasted to any upstart niche brief. This has been accelerating in the last four of Aventus' seven year lifespan, yet none of the clones have supplanted their template as the ideal "pineapple scent" of the decade. Club de Nuit Intense by Armaf seems to get the most votes on Fragrantica, but recent talk of Pineapple Vintage pushed it over the edge for me. Enough already.

Creed has always been a trendsetter, so in this respect Aventus is nothing new. But prior Creeds impacted the designer market, spawning one or two commensurately successful fragrances that either mainstreamed or floundered. Original Santal birthed the equally popular Mont Blanc Individuel (well, brought it to everyone's attention). Millesime Imperial became Acqua di Gio. Green Irish Tweed is Cool Water's blueprint, and sadly Cool Water is now all but dead. See the pattern? The obscure became the ubiquitous. But so far Aventus hasn't been "found" among designers, and I find this rather strange. Where is the Chanel, the Dior, the YSL frag that attempts to replicate the supposed beauty of Creed's smoky-woody pineapple structure? Why is the commercial exploitation constrained by the niche market?

My theory is that this fragrance isn't really as groundbreaking as its "fans" seem to think. Aventus is one of those "you had to be there" fragrances. You had to be there when it was released to remember exactly what happened. Its initial reception was not dissimilar to Bleu de Chanel's and Dior Sauvage's. At first guys were critical. They called Aventus "Creed's designer scent." The number one complaint was that it "Smells like a designer frag." This went on for months. My impression of this publicity was that Creed had finally tired of fidgeting around with the pretense of being a niche brand, and had openly accepted their quasi-designer status with a representative product, signaling a company transition to top-tier mainstream.

But then something interesting happened: Aventus became the "Holy Grail" scent. Bros everywhere were snapping their jock straps to get a whiff of this stuff. And within a year, Aventus was Creed's biggest hit, even bigger than GIT. How do you go from being a derided "designer" scent, to being the best thing since sliced bread? Easy. Just let the natural course of price point dictating value perception happen under its own steam. Had Aventus been released by Armaf first, nobody would have known it existed, and those who did would just think it was a nice inexpensive niche scent. But slap a $300 price tag on it, and suddenly the banal becomes fascinating. The lowly pineapple note, once used to excess in frags like Lapidus Pour Homme and Boss Number One, was suddenly metrosexual and "new."

What gets tiring is the persistence of the leech brands in cloning this thing. Yes, a dry pineapple note mixed with a bitter smoky accord and a hint of VC&A-like rose is quite pleasant, but enough to eschew original ideas for it? I personally don't think Aventus is that good. I like it, and can appreciate the balmy fruits against the November backdrop, but in the end it just smells like a well-made "crowd pleaser," in the same vein as Bleu de Chanel.

Cynical attempts to cash in on Aventus' popularity are clear examples of just how similar the niche world is to the designer. When something sells, everyone else wants a slice of the pineapple pie. Just be prepared to pay a little more for it.


3/10/17

The Danger Of Misusing The Term "Niche"


A Niche Scent.

On a recent basenotes thread, the following exchange occurred:

Dougczar writes:
"Of course niche houses use synthetics, but designers seem to [generally] use a much higher concentration of the worst offender aromachemicals. The sharp screetchy notes and ISO-E that I smell in a LOT of designers, I don't usually detect in niche - and if I do, it's much more subtle."

Bigsly writes:
"Well, what I've found is that the 'super cheapos' I buy tend to be more natural-smelling than quite a few niche scents I've tried lately."

To which L'Homme Blanc Individuel says:
"I assumed you're so anti-niche because it's expensive. As you said, you're not willing to pay more than $20... but now I'm wondering if it's also that you're picking the wrong niche scents to try."

Bigsly responds:
"With niche samples, it's whatever comes my way. I don't go out of my way to acquire them. Stash is certainly an attempt at niche. You can call it niche pastiche, niche light, or something along those lines (as others have, though most seem to think it should be considered niche, in terms of smell, how it's constructed, etc.) but it's the kind of scent I'm referencing."

L'Homme Blanc Individuel retorts with:
"If you're getting niche bottles for under $20, your understanding of what niche is will be wildly skewed. It's a lot like trying to judge steak when your examples are $10 steaks you'd get at a pub."

And Bigsly parries with:
"I've found that some CK scents of recent years seem to be really loaded with some nasty aroma chemicals . . . If my choice was between this type of scent and niche of recent years, I'd say, sure, niche is a lot better (generally-speaking, obviously), but then there are the 'super cheapos' I've purchased that don't have any kind of 'synthetic' or 'chemical' element (or it's very minor). Just some I can remember offhand: Unbreakable, Cuba Prestige, Magnet for Men, Legend by Michael Jordan, and the aforementioned. For more money, but lower than designer, are Ferrari's Oud and Leather Essence scents, which are among my favorites of the last few years among any scent categories."

L'Homme Blanc Individuel dispatches this nonsense with:
"You complain about how expensive niche is, but look at how much money you've wasted on scents you're trying to get rid of. My entire wardrobe costs less than that."

Spoiler: Although the list is nine years old, it was updated as recently as February of this year, and most of the frags mentioned cost around $10 an ounce, or less.

When you use the term "niche," you're using a word for a sector of an existing commercial market. Most markets can be divided into two sectors: "mainstream" and "niche." A mainstream car is a Chevy. A niche car is a Tesla. A much larger swath of buyers are interested in the cheaper, easier to maintain Chevys than the smaller subset of buyers who prefer the esoteric battery-powered world of Tesla.

In this case, the initial purchase of a Tesla is far more expensive, and the cars are trickier to maintain (hello hi-end extension cords) than the lowly Chevy, but in terms of savings on gasoline and saving the environment, one can see why a sizable fraction of the population buys them. These long-term cost-savvy folks are the ones this particular niche is targeted at.

But guess what? Another niche (call it "new niche") is a car that cost less than $6K back when it was new: the Plymouth Horizon. Yeah, remember those? Little tinny hatchbacks with Volkswagen Rabbit engines and surprisingly fun rack-and-pinion steering. There's a small community of car guys who are devoted to them. They're a far cry from any Tesla, and yet they're a type of niche vehicle, particularly because they're no longer made and a tiny group would donate their left testicles to own one in pristine condition.

Fragrances inhabit the same cost spectrum as cars, and in many cases the spectrum is more elastic, since you can vary the amount of the same given fragrance you want to purchase (but you could never buy half a Tesla). If you want Green Irish Tweed, and can't afford a full bottle, you can purchase a sample of just a few milliliters. But my point here is to make the distinction between calling fragrances "niche" because you're addressing that they sell to a small share of the overall market, and calling them "niche" because you think this is automatically what any elusive or expensive fragrance is.

When Bigsly or anyone else says something like, "Stash is certainly an attempt at niche. You can call it niche pastiche, niche light, or something along those lines," they're misusing the term. What is "niche pastiche?" What is "niche light?" What are these invented names meant to describe? They suggest that niche fragrances all share a common olfactory quality, and that some are a mishmash of this and other qualities, presumably drawn from other kinds of fragrances that are not necessarily "niche." And "niche light" suggests that predetermined qualities are being scaled back, or "lightened" in a given scent.

Clearly this makes no sense. Scent-wise, niche fragrances are not products that you can pigeonhole as being any one specific thing. Xerjoff Dhofar and Harley Davidson Legendary are both niche scents, simply because they are both targeted at vanishingly small sectors of the buying public: those who enjoy expensive Italian perfumes, and those who love all things Harley Davidson. Would anyone say that these two fragrances share anything else in common, other than their both having tiny audiences?

If you doubt their audience size, ask yourself how many people you know who wear either of these brands. Then consider yourself in the equation. For example, I've never driven anything but GM cars my entire life. I've never owned or ridden a motorcycle, and have only known one person who had a Harley (and he didn't even like it). If I wasn't predisposed to trying as many different fragrances as I can get my nose on, why would I want to buy a bottle of Legendary? If I'm not interested in Harley Davidson, what would make me buy their scent?

When the term "niche" is misused, it leads to the assumption that niche fragrances are a type of fragrance, instead of a variety of fragrances that are sold in the niche sector of the fragrance market. It ascribes technical meaning to something that should only be considered in economic terms. Some of the "myths of niche" that I frequently see:
- Niche fragrances are "simpler" than mainstream fragrances
- Niche fragrances are more natural
- Niche fragrances are universally rare
- Niche fragrances are expensive
- Niche fragrances are hard to find
- Niche fragrances should be characterized simply as "niche"
- Niche fragrances are more desirable than mainstream scents
- Niche fragrances are more exotic than mainstream scents
- Niche usually focuses on specific aroma chemicals

Let me briefly rebuff each of these points:

- Almost all of the niche scents I've encountered had the same complexity as the average designer or mainstream scent.
- Niche fragrances use similar amounts of naturals and synthetics compared to their mainstream counterparts, and in many cases niche fragrances rely on synthetics exclusively.
- If you want a rare niche fragrance in the age of the internet, surprise! You can find it on the internet! Even if you can't buy it directly online, there's always contact information to discuss a purchase.
- Some niche fragrances are very, very expensive, equal to the cost of a new car. Some are dirt cheap: if you're a wetshaver, you probably own and use daily one of at least ten niche fragrances that cost $5 an ounce (or less).
- If a fragrance, any fragrance, is hard to find, you need to join the 21st century and get broadband.
- Just calling a niche fragrance "niche" doesn't describe the fragrance. It describes the sector of the market it is sold in.
- Niche fragrances are equivalent in variety and range of quality to their mainstream counterparts. Therefore they are interchangeable with mainstream scents, and should only be judged on individual merits.
- All niche fragrances are at least somewhat "exotic" in the sense that they are made for a smaller group of potential buyers than mainstream fare is. If you call niche fragrances "exotic niche" you're being redundant. You're also describing the exoticism of their fanbase, not the scents themselves.
- Some niche fragrances focus on specific chemicals; some don't. Ditto for mainstream.

With niche, the question to ask is always, "Which niche?" The word describes a very broad spectrum of subsets. Are we talking about designer niche? Wetshaver niche? Brand-name niche? Natural perfumery? Soliflores? Orientals? Chypres? Fougeres? More information is needed to understand what is being discussed. Just saying "niche" is like saying "perfume." The possibilities are endless.




3/6/17

Jil Sander Man Pure (Jil Sander)

Pure Testosterone

Whenever I encounter a chypre, I expect to only half like it. With the exception of Grey Flannel, I've never met one that I outright loved, although Mitsouko does give me a tingle now and then. Jil Sander's Man Pure (also known as "Man 1. Pure") isn't an exception, but it is an incredibly cool fragrance, its professed purity evocative of '80s Wim Wenders films, silvery and inky, weathered faces and smoke. It's the fragrance equivalent of a '70s BMW 2002 with all original 2.0 L. engine, brake failure light, and roughly 80 of its original 100 hp left at god only knows how many RPMs and foot lbs of torque. Man Pure still moves, still has a Neo-noire attitude, and oh by the way, it was manufactured in West Germany, so if you're looking for something with Cold War street cred, it doesn't get better than this. Even the drab, blocky, colorless bottle looks like a brick in the Wall.

Chypres like Man Pure make me daydream, though. Wearing it the other day, I found myself wondering what it would smell like if some contemporary shitkicker outfit tried to make it on a budget for the K-Mart crowd. It boisterous cistus labdanum, lemon, and castoreum opening accord would likely be reduced to some functional analog of "pine" and "grey citrus." Its sophisticated (but aggressively masculine) heart of kitchen herbs, frankincense, wormwood, and oakmoss would definitely be a fake cinnamon woody amber, with one of those annoying pencil-shaving cedar thingies buzzing off the tail end. The smoky musky-mossy finish would be a bland detergent musk mixed with a pinch of treemoss and treacle. It would probably impress me as a solid attempt at something genuinely old-school and unconventional that simply flounders on the basis of not having a skilled enough nose behind it, sort of like these films Hollywood keeps churning out that seem to be made by people who haven't seen any films. That is, it would be ironically weird, and a noble failure.

With this in mind, and remembering that there were no guiding light breakthroughs for chypres like there were for fougeres in this time period, there's nothing suprising about Man Pure. It doesn't try to have it both ways by tucking lavender in the mix; this fragrance has no fougere accord. The citrus note, which is not quite bergamot, but close enough, along with the potent punch of beaver juice and labdanum pretty much shouts "I AM MAN" from rooftops, traveling loudly alongside you everywhere you go. It feels similar to Halston Z14, Salvador Dali Pour Homme, and even a little like vintage Yatagan, with its burnt evergreen needles adding texture and rustic beauty to the proceedings. Released in 1981 to little fanfare, this incredible gem reveals just how ruthless and stark these bawdy Reagan era masculines could be.

If you're looking for a dry, dark, naturalistic chypre with a fresh, silvery incense note, good dynamism, excellent longevity, and an irredeemably macho bite, this is something you should spritz. Wear it to a late-night screening of Wings of Desire and blast Blondie tapes from your Beamer to get the full effect.





2/8/17

The Dilemma Of The "Work Fragrance"



Occasionally I get questions by email and in comments on this blog from readers wondering about my opinion of the "work fragrance," and what qualifies as a worthy scent for the workplace. My general rule of thumb in giving advice is to recommend counterintuitive action. That is, if you work in a formal setting, replete with business suits, corner offices, "power lunches," and never-ending deadlines, you should wear something casual and objectively fun. Likewise, if you work in a relaxed environment, where Casual Friday happens everyday, and where offices are the exception, not the rule, you'd be well served to button up in your fragrance choice.

My reasoning for this is one of balance. If you carry a briefcase to work and suffer the constant indignity of having your secretary micro-aggressively question your every move, a little levity, even in the low hum of something like a half spray of Joop! Homme, is a welcome reminder that you belong to the human race. Your coworkers will register that you're wearing something peppy and sweet, but their emotional well-being is circumstantially aligned with yours, and their subconscious reaction to your saccharine sillage will echo approval. In a crowded business meeting full of grey-faced politicians and soul-destroying accountants, who can argue with an invisible signal of one's inner mirth? You may not be allowed to tell a vintage Sam Kinison joke in front of the account execs, but your fragrance can signal in a non-threatening way (when applied judiciously) that your inner scream is primed and ready for action.

My reasoning for the inverse applies accordingly, but I want to address the reader who says in frustration, "But what if you work in a place that is not obviously formal or casual?" I work in just such a place. My line of work requires me to do tons of paperwork and manage a dozen different kinds of documents, tracking dates, data, line graphs, and the explicit directions of mental health professionals. It's an oddly anachronistic job, especially given the i-Times we are currently in, and I often think that I should wear a visor and smoke cigarettes while engaged in these clerical tasks. In this regard, my job is bizarrely formal.

There is a caveat to this, though. Quite frequently a sizable portion of my day brings the mental and physiological tightrope act of intentionally lighthearted banter with coworkers between physical altercations with people who momentarily wish me bodily harm. I must summon at a moment's notice a cool-headed comment designed to deflate another person's potentially dangerous attitude problem, while giving an implicit and even-handed promise to overlook whatever harm might be done.

Where I work, emotions and tensions can run sky high, but I often have days where 90% of my interactions are easy and not at all demanding. I drive into work every day saying to myself, "Bryan, you'll either drive home at four o'clock, or an ambulance will drive you," and I'm fine with that. What the hell should I wear in a place like this? Should I even wear anything at all? Would going scentless be the "safe" way of handling these professional, social, and cultural ambiguities?

Over the last seven years, I've devised an answer to that, with a few tiers. First, as far as the question of "should I" goes, the answer is clear: Yes, fragrance is appropriate. My environment is subject to many unpleasant odors, many due to bodily fluids, unpleasant secretions, filthy clothing, and just plain bad hygiene. For me to bring a waft of something that smells at least relatively "good" is something more than merely prosaic - it is fundamentally useful. I realized pretty early on that my coworkers actually appreciate an occasional olfactory reprieve, even if only in the form of a good personal fragrance. In many instances my body is in close quarters with someone else's, and I have yet to receive a complaint. I often receive compliments.

However, I'm careful to use a unique tactic: I mix it up. There is no straight line in how one's temperament should adjust in my workplace, and thus no reason to be linear with my fragrance style. Some days it's formal; some days it's a casual fragrance that works best. I have some scheduling indicators that signal what sort of day I'm most likely to have at any given point of the work week, and I wear my frag accordingly. Usually my scents are a bit more formal, and while that is largely due to my personal taste (and not coordinated to effect my working environment), it is also a tertiary benefit of working with people who need to differentiate your impact on their day from the impact of the environment around them. Become too repetitive and too thematic, and they begin to expect you. Stay fresh and new, and expectations aren't formed on that subconscious level, beyond knowing I will smell at least relatively "good."

I tend to stay away from pure perfumes, very strong extraits and oils. There are certain frags that simply feel "wrong." They're too bombastic, too heavy, potentially offensive, even to me. Common sense prevails. Likewise, I see little point in habitually donning light, evanescent colognes like 4711. On a tough day, I'll sweat that out in the first hour, and then it'll be like I never sprayed anything at all. No fun. I like the happy medium of full-bodied EDTs, generally from the last thirty years, and usually trending toward the "woody" end of the masculine spectrum. Coworkers are taken aback at the seemingly endless variety of fragrances, but if someone hands you a steaming turd, you'll gladly take my love of the Caron line over the ecrement.

My suggestion is to go with your gut, but don't be afraid to go against the proverbial grain. Ditch the business scent if you're a businessman - it's redundant. Stay away from watermelon B&B Works crap if you're a lifeguard. Believe it or not, Kouros works better in sand and sun than Acqua di Gio. And yeah, going full Gordon Gecko and wearing Patou Pour Homme to the 116th floor on the day of the Taiwan deal is just asking to end up in a Robert Longo painting.

Be fresh in your heart, and your work will follow.



2/5/17

KL Homme: Overrated Oriental



It's funny how tastes evolve, especially for fragrance. A few years ago I wrote a glowing review for KL Homme, Lagerfeld's "80s oriental." KL was his indirect response to the continuing popularity of the '70s classics Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur and Jovan Sex Appeal. Lagerfeld Cologne was somewhat similar to Jovan Musk for Men, but the floral musks of the previous decade had limited appeal, and by 1986 it was all about powdery patchouli ambers, with Chanel's Antaeus, Giorgio for Men, and Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men leading the pack.

The 1980s were a continuation of the leading trends of the 1970s, which is why so many guys mistakenly refer to '70s scents like Grey Flannel and Azzaro Pour Homme as "80s colognes." Truly new and innovative concepts didn't emerge until the '90s, though things like Xeryus and Bogner Man were definitely "newish" for young men of the Reagan era. I confess that I'm not partial to oriental fragrances, but I do appreciate a good amber scent; Old Spice, Giorgio, Antaeus, Lagerfeld Classic, and KL Homme are all quite agreeable to me.

In the case of KL Homme, I realized last month that my feelings are changing. I still like it, and enjoy wearing it, but I'm not nearly as impressed with it as I was when I first purchased it. It's important to note that my bottle (and any bottle) is vintage, at least 25 years old, and probably older. It's also good to remember Jeffrey Dame's words about vintage orientals - they last longer than other fragrance types, probably because their complexity masks any subtle spoilage. With KL Homme, I sense no spoilage, other than perhaps a slightly unbalanced musk note, and some bland citrus.

My problem with KL is that it's dreadfully boring. It smells like the vaguest idea of an oriental, with all the most basic elements present, and nothing else. It has a crisp citrus with aldehydes and woody terpenes in the opening accord, followed by a polite cloud of patchouli, amber, benzoin, a hint of soapy rosewood, and talcum powder. The base holds a subdued non-animalic musk, and if you sniff very carefully you can feel the presence of cinnamon-sprinkled sandalwood under the dust. Sounds delightful, right? Well, it would be, if it weren't so carefully fitted and tucked and pruned into such insufferably inoffensive blah-ness. Fragrantica cites civet in KL's pyramid, but there is none, and I've no clue what Fragraticans are smelling in its place.

An oriental should have some magic, some characteristic "oomph!" that sets it apart. KL has no magic, and no memorable moments in its eight hour lifespan. It simply smells like a reference oriental. It's the skeleton of something fleshed-out and alive. It's just bare bones boring. I can't put it any other way. People rave about this fragrance online, but I don't share the love. Quality-wise, it's mediocre, its accords rather indistinct and functional, their execution surprisingly over-blended and soapy. In contrast, Lagerfeld Classic's musk, cigarette tobacco, and myrrh notes are quite realistic, and stand out.

If you're in the market for a "reference oriental," i.e. something that conveys the most basic, no-frills oriental imaginable, KL Homme is for you. But is it deserving of high praise? Nah, not really. I recommend Pierre Cardin's scent over it, and even prefer Sex Appeal, which isn't as pretentious, smells more focused, and contains clearer headshop patchouli and bolder wood notes at an ironically lower price point. If you must have a vintage from KL's era, I suggest you find a splash bottle of Obsession for Men, which has in some cases survived the decades intact, and may still smell reasonably fresh and complex (I had a bottle for 30 years).