Perfume Directory

Calvin (1981)
by Calvin Klein


Calvin information

Year of Launch1981
Average Rating
(based on 121 votes)

People and companies

HouseCalvin Klein
Parent CompanyBenckiser > Coty Inc > Coty Prestige
Parent Company at launchMinnetonka

About Calvin

Launched in 1981, 'Calvin' was Calvin Klein's first masculine fragrance.It contains notes of bergamot, geranium and sandalwood.
The packaging is blue-black, with silver text and has a retro feel.
Although discontinued in 1990, Calvin was relaunched worldwide on 4th October 1999 to celebrate the millennium. Its a limited edition launch, so grab it now if you are a fan of this retro scent.

Reviews of Calvin

There is so much hype with this scent across the Internet, that it's actually hard to parse objective description from sentiment, with people clutching survivng bottles and screaming "the ultimate masculine scent" or "the only CK worth owning" while cradling it in their sleep. Well, for the record, this is a GOOD fragrance from the early 1980's, and indeed debuted alongside the "Class of 1981" which included greats like Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent, Antaeus by Chanel, Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui, and Bijan for Men, but like Stetson by Coty, tends to sit outside of that circle because Calvin Klein was still in it's perfumery infancy after the release of Calvin Klein (1979) for women, and just didn't get the same attention. The hype machine really got started after this was brought back for a limited time in 1999 to celebrate the turn of the millenium, and drilled into people's head that this was some unsung hero of the 80's powerhouse period. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not some lost unappreciated gem worthy of the niche price tags it fetches now in the aftermarket, nor is it the first and final real achievement of the house, because like it or not, Eternity for Men (1989) was that scent (and arguably not the final achievement), as it did more for the future of perfume than this little black obelisk. However, this is a really quality, if somewhat derivative oakmoss bomb full of bright bergamot, smoky vetiver, and smooth musk. If the house of Calvin Klein had the kind of talent Chanel has, this might have even survived reformulation well, like Antaeus, if it had been kept available, but since it's intial run was brief and it's second run nothing but a tease, it makes sense that folks covet it more than they probably should. I mean, just the fact that the same house who makes endless freshies even put out an oakmoss powerhouse is astonishing in and of itself.

Calvin opens up with an enormous blast of bergamot and neroli, with lemon, mandarin, and the odd choices of chamomile and armoise softening the blow a little more than one might expect. The floral heart shows it's face rather early, but these are manly florals of the barbershop kind, so expect a stiff geranium note accompanied by meaty tarragon and lemon verbena. This phase reminds me most of the later Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984), just with the added heft of a fat-bottomed oakmoss base. Even in this earliest phase, CK was using "Kleinisms", with oddly specific notes like "cinnamon leaf" and "orange flower" that feel incredulous. It's a far cry from "acid rain accord" or "sunshine on an angel's back" BS of more recent note pyramids, but even in 1981 the CK marketing team was allowed to embelish the note pyramids, just not to the same extent. I'm not saying the leaf of the plant cinammon is cultivated from isn't in there, but it's doubtful. The base is pure classic early 80's, and the biggest part aside from the top that makes it too similar for it's own good to more profound masculines from the period. Sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, patchouli and musk make up the final phase here, instantly connecting Calvin to Eucris by Geo F Trumper (1912), Jacomo de Jacomo (1980), the later Avon Féraud Pour Homme (1985), and to the more-obscure Lamborghini GT (also 1985). Calvin finishes much like these, with a heavier musk bedrock that supports a patchouli and vetiver garden fertilized by oakmoss. It's formal and rich, not crisp after the citrus fades like some of the others, and best for spring or fall median temperatures.

Calvin's most unique feature is that it's virtually an early 80's powerhouse chimera, that tries to take elements from classic barbershop scents, bright Italian citrus, stiff English oakmoss, and patchouli/musk riffage from the previous decade. Calvin Klein clearly wanted something for everyone with this, but distinction is sacrificed for likeability. I also understand the fanaticism, because CK is one of the most popular and ubiquitous designers on the planet, so there's a much larger pool of fans, some not so well-versed in their options, that see this as the holy grail of 80's masculines because they just don't KNOW about the alternatives. Collectors and vintage snobs will obviously over-hype this too, just because it IS the oldest CK masculine and only one of two main-line non-seasonal/non-flanker scents that are discontinued and rare, so the "dragon fever" overrides their logic circuits and convinces them of it's superiority, with the old "I paid X for it so I have to like it" justification filling in the blanks. If money is no object and your patience is unlimited, a full-bottle purchase of this is definitely recommended as it is a very nice scent worth owning. However, considering it sits squarely inbetween a range of arguably more-signifant and distinct masculines in style, and is more derivative than zealots will admit, it's one unicorn better left in the wild, unless on the off-chance Calvin Klein lets it breed once again.
21st May, 2018
Stardate 20171220:

A nice fougere from 80s. A Polo clone for most part with a floral twist and drier at the end.
Redundant(and not as good) if you have the original Polo.
Neutral to mild thumbs up
20th December, 2017
The original formulation of Calvin was prescient, predictive of many seminal riffs one would see down the line, through Drakkar Noir and numerous spicy fougeres later on. Calvin's main problem was it was too strong; it took a serious effort to spray on as little as possible. A full spritz was noxious, but just the right amount was a wonderfully zippy bergamot, yet coriander-like, musky idiosyncrasy.
22nd August, 2017
Genre: Fougère

Calvin’s opening maneuvers are pretty conventional: tart lemon, sweet bergamot, and lavender that presage a classical fougère formula. A strong anise note and additional aromatic elements emerge to establish a spicy central accord that reminds me very much of the classic Azzaro pour Homme, though decidedly softer and sweeter. The foundation is predictably heavy on coumarin, and mercifully free of the crude woody amber basenotes that mar so many newer fougères.

While Calvin is much less loud than some of its contemporaries, it is not a retiring scent. It won’t enter the room before you do, but you’ll always know you’re wearing it. Calvin’s spicy-aromatic heart is relatively quick to deconstruct, so that within two hours of wear what remains is a much more bland, and rather sweet, traditional fougère of medium intensity. I’d prefer it if Calvin retained its spicy edge for longer, since the extended drydown is disappointingly dull. "Businesslike" is how I would describe this scent, and decidedly conservative, in a style that, while perfectly attractive, is not the current fashion.
11th June, 2014
Hope you dont mind and i do recognize this product has been discontinued but looking for a bottle or two. Appreciate where they can be found.

Negative aspect is that I cant find it and trying to buy. Feel free to recommend where it can be found.

be safe...

Pros: Stands alone in its class and what the fragrance portrays to others compared to what is being produced these days.
Cons: Its unique"

13th October, 2013
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
Discreetly traditional

The top notes are the traditional mix of bergamot, neroli, lemon and geranium, but chamomile and artemisia give it a bit of and unexpected twist. Later patchouli comes into the foreground, which on my skin is quite controlled and not particularly harsh. Later in the base sandal and a restrained musk are added, but the latter phase is very close to my skin. Silage and projection are all right in the initial stages, which are the most interesting to me. I get a complete longevity of three hours. One of CK's most gentlemanly and least vacuous scents, and definitely on the traditional side but nonetheless with a creative element. One of my favourite CKs.

I am not sure about the age of the juice I am reviewing and which edition it represents.

28th September, 2013

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