12/9/17

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.


11/18/17

Suede (Bath & Body Works)


Fragrantica user "Robinsda" wrote of Suede:
"This may seem weird, but I get a similar vibe from this to Aqua Di Gio Profumo."
Now, if you're familiar with AdGP, you know that it has a reputation for smelling not like a flanker to the original, but like the actual original formula of Acqua di Gio from the 1990s (Essenza ticks that box, too). This suggests that Suede smells like a floral citrus aquatic scent, which is counterintuitive for anything professing to focus on leather.

To me Suede smells like a basic citrus cologne with an English Leather-style dyrdown, except with an oversized white musk standing in for EL's wood notes. Is this worth $35? Yes and no. If you're looking for a tenacious cologne with a fairly harmless (non-animalic) drydown, and you can't afford to spend $85 on 100ml of AdG, I suppose you could get Suede. However, I can think of better citrus scents: Adam Levine's signature masculine is an excellent grapefruit cologne with a bit of a clean woodsy base, Ed Hardy's Love & Luck is still a great dupe of Creed's MI (by proxy a dupe of AdG), and Aqua Quorum has a piney richness under all the calone that makes it infinitely more "suedy" than Suede for half the cost.

My issue with fragrances like this is that there are too many similar comparatives to make a purchase worthwhile. Why should anyone drop $35 on an average citrus-woody cologne when there are better colognes for the same price or less? Bourbon is at least a somewhat unique concept, but "citrus leather" barely registers anymore.


Noir (Bath & Body Works)


There is no shortage of young men who are eager to smell of vanilla, and in the nineties it was Givenchy Pi that satisfied the collective sweet tooth. A zillion reincarnations and extensions of the theme have since come and gone, and B&BW's current interpretation is no better or worse than the lot.

While smelling this fragrance, I was struck by how minimalistic it is. I expected it to be a soapy fougere like Drakkar Noir, and was pleasantly surprised. I'm accustomed to encountering mid-shelf designer frags that attempt to impress, with at least two or three notes that aren't necessary and don't quite pass muster, but Noir knows its limits. It opens with a cardamom and burnt sugar accord that is at once sweet and robust, a rather nice spin on the ethyl maltol cliché, and rapidly dries down to an arid vanilla with a healthy dollop of white musk. Much like the Bourbon scent, Noir thins out pretty quickly and hangs close for about three hours, but it's nice while it lasts.

For a simple and cheap vanilla oriental, I'd say you're still better off getting Pi. It costs the same (or less) and smells richer and more interesting than Noir, plus it lasts a solid seven hours or more. But I guess if you're interested in being consistent and wish to use the cologne in tandem with the body lotion and deodorant, Noir is Noir.


11/12/17

Bourbon (Bath & Body Works)



In my opinion there are two kinds of fragrances: intellectual perfumes, like Ocean Rain, The Dreamer, Chanel N°5, Diorella, and Green Irish Tweed, and functional hygienic fragrances, like everything found in The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works. The former category contains hundreds of complex concepts executed with attention to form; these are efforts to create new scents not found in nature.

The latter category is devoted to mimicking known smells in nature and combining them into simple and pleasing compositions. They are aimed at casual fragrance wearers who want to recognize everything they smell, and associate positive attributes to smelling "good." People who primarily wear B&BW fragrances take pleasure in selecting specific scents based on identifiable materials, and rarely attach abstract meaning to how they smell. They don't wear peppermint body lotion to make a statement. They wear it to smell clean and inviting while snuggling by a fire. Nobody dons White Citrus to impress upon coworkers a citrusy identity. It is worn to keep your cubicle fresh while you're in it.

Of the five fragrances in B&BW's Men's Signature Collection, I found Bourbon to be closest to an intellectual masculine. It has distinct notes of white pepper, oakwood, amber, and musk, and if I focus on the fragrance in the first twenty minutes, I get good note separation. But when I let the composition speak for itself, an interesting thing happens: the notes coalesce into a smooth, dry, corn-fed bourbon liquor, warmed by a soft musky amber, which gets stronger over the course of three hours. Longevity and projection are a bit meek, with the first clocking in at about four hours, and the second getting you maybe five inches of attention beyond the limits of your shirt collar, but still, this fragrance is unique, well made, and a good value at about $10 an ounce.

Another bonus to this fragrance is that it comes in a variety of forms, ranging from a shea body lotion (which my girlfriend got me), to a shower gel and deodorant spray. If you intend on using the body lotion and don't have the EDT to go with it, fear not. Any number of old-school, woody, "cigar box masculine" fragrances should go well with it. If you're a fan of The One by D&G, this is probably for you, as it is most often compared to that scent on Fragrantica.


11/7/17

Only The Brave Wild (Diesel)

It was the summer of 2014, and Diesel felt the need to issue another Only The Brave flanker. Let me quickly say that the summer of 2014 was a good one for me: I bought my first house. The low point of the year was probably this fragrance, although it is successful enough on its own terms.

Summer frags usually go in one of three directions: chemical aquatic with sugary "froot" notes, chemical "grey citrus" with a sour, sometimes salty aftertaste, and derivative balmy suntan lotion scents with varying adjustments to what is basically just Coppertone. (I like the smell of Coppertone, especially since it was reformulated into jasmine-infused Brut). OTB Wild, with its ugly green fist punching at my face yet again, is arguably the most sophisticated fragrance in the OTB line, as it eschews the bland, overly blended approach of its predecessors in favor of a slightly more daring herbal affair. My favorite Fragrantica review, by member "Voodoochild82," reads:
"Tried this out in Kohl's today. Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this smells like pickle juice?"
No Voodoochild82, you're not the only one. I also got a bit of a spiced pickle feeling off the very top (on paper), but this scent has some depth and direction. The fragrance boasts a crystal clear peppered lemongrass accord, its liveliness smudged together with lavender. This kind of totally unexpected seriousness is something that I'd sooner seek out in something by Jacomo or Puig. I thought I'd smell a dull grapefruit citrus top, and instead got bitter greens. Cool.

It doesn't take long for a tonka, nutmeg, and somewhat vanillic (but still rather green) coconut accord to push through the lemongrass. This all sounds pretty good as you read it, but it's more than a little dull, and the coconut never fully materializes into the floral creaminess I've come to expect in good summer lotions. The whole thing remains overly staid and wispy, as if the perfumers self consciously wished their dilettante approach to Diesel's standard brief could be taken by forgiving Europeans as being artistic and mature. They did an OK job, but really, just put Vanilla Fields in your beach bag, and move on with your day.



11/5/17

Only The Brave Tattoo (Diesel)


In an age where smoking is all but criminalized, it's both predictable and sad to see tobacco marketed as a subversive note. Joop! Homme Wild did this with their tobacco flower approach, and Diesel does it in Tattoo, where a sweet pipe tobacco element dominates the drydown. This fragrance smells somewhat similar to the original OTB, emitting generous wafts of syrupy citrus, candied red apple, peppered amber, and an omnipresent synthetic patchouli note that I believe also snuck into the heart accord of the first release. Where it diverges is in its focus. Instead of fruity citrus sweetness, this time we get tobacco sweetness. Is it an improvement?

Yes and no. I appreciate tobacco in fragrances. Anything with a clear tobacco note gets a wink and a nod from me. Good on whoever threw this thing together for including that note, as it lends a little maturity and sophistication to a fragrance that is far from mature and sophisticated.

Still, the presence of tobacco alone can't make up for what's missing here. The main problem with OTB Tattoo is that it's too blended to be effective. Instead of presenting clear analogs of identifiable materials, everything is fused together in a big, overly sweet blob. Eventually a few impressions stand out, like black pepper, tobacco, and amber, but they lack punctuation, and it all just runs together.

In the plus column, the fragrance does smell generically "fresh," and therefore good in an objective sense, and I can't see anyone wrinkling their nose in disgust upon sniffing it, but with such a prominent tobacco note there should be more going on. Adding to the pain is the knowledge that for a third of the price I can enjoy a much better composition with a more realistic (and less sweet) tobacco note in Vermeil for Men. I'll be a little perverse here and also point out that a much better "soapy-fresh" fragrance with a far more realistic tobacco note in its base can be had in VC&A Pour Homme.

Maybe it's time for designers to explore other themes in the realm of tobacco notes. Instead of always relying on the same sugared pipe tobacco idea with its now played-out sweetness, perhaps we can get more renditions of bitter unflavored cigar tobacco, or maybe even someone's interpretation of menthol cigarettes. It's time to usher the age of A*Men's ethyl-maltol tobaccos out, and bring Winston Churchill's stogies back in.



11/4/17

Only The Brave (Diesel)


In the world of perfume writing, price is often a mind changing component. Only The Brave is about ten dollars an ounce, which put simply is a little too much for something as "safe" and forgettable as this is. If I could get a 4.2 oz bottle for twenty-five dollars, I'd feel a whole lot better. I guess forty dollars (on Amazon) isn't terrible, but I can get 1.7 ounces of Prada Amber for thirty-eight dollars, and that's a richer, classier, and much "safer" bet! Sure it's less juice, but it would last me longer (it's stronger) and smell infinitely better, so why bother spending more than five bucks an ounce on Diesel?

How does it smell? Here is where both price and packaging effect perception, arguably more than they should. Consider this review from "Way Off-Scenter" on basenotes for a glimpse of how extreme tackiness can backfire:
"Only the Brave consists largely of two accords. One, a blend of aquatic notes and caustic, sinus-piercing woody ambers, is meant to smell 'clean,' but actually smells like something I’d use to disinfect my toilet bowl. The other, a potent artificial 'froot' flavor, no doubt meant to smell 'fresh,' in fact smells like the solid air freshener in the nearest public men’s room. Together, they smell just plain bad."
Now if OTB came in a subdued Green Irish Tweedy bottle, with gentle black matte and a no-frills cap, and the whole affair cost half as much as it does, I'd bet Mr. Scenter would consider it on better terms, perhaps as an unexpectedly tame and casual "drugstore scent." Then again, maybe not, but it's hard to see the Avon inspired glass fist with its knuckle iron name tag and not retch a little in your mouth.

My point is that despite smelling a bit cheap and generic, OTB doesn't really smell that bad at all. Yes, it does smell "synthetic," with no natural notes leaping forward at any stage, and sure, its "fresh" accords mimic the smells of bathroom cleaners, but you have to use a little context here. Kerosene's Copper Skies smells like blood-soaked cloves and wood varnish, and I wouldn't wear it to a pig roast. Next to Copper Skies, Only The Brave smells like a Creed.

Its greatest sin is its blandness. Its sugary mandarin top note, followed by a nondescript "blonde woods" middle on a base of violet leaf and sweetened amber is a recipe for whateverdom. Smell it on a collar in a smoky Czech pub after a few pints, and I guess it projects a youthful everyman vibe, but one spray too many on a car ride cross country might lose you some friends.

If you're looking for a "modern" masculine that is intentionally generic and "safe," and favor a soapier, sweeter approach to that idea, I'd sooner refer you to the aforementioned Prada Amber, Clean Shower Fresh, Davidoff Horizon EDT, Dior Sauvage, and Dior Homme Eau. They're all quite different, but generally fit a "modern" and "safe" profile, being scents you can just throw on and forget about.

Still, if you're under 25 and want a good pub crawler, OTB is worth a sniff. Sidenote: I've seen reviews that compare it to the original Allure Homme. That fragrance is something closer to Cool Water than OTB, and is far better than OTB. Tangentially, if you want something that is truly similar to Allure Homme for a third of the price, get Joop! Jump.