Perfume Directory

Canoé (1936)
by Dana


Canoé information

Year of Launch1936
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 159 votes)

People and companies

PerfumerJean Carles
PackagingMarc Rosen
Parent CompanyPatriarch Partners > Dana Classics

About Canoé

Canoé is a masculine fragrance by Dana. The scent was launched in 1936 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Jean Carles. The bottle was designed by Marc Rosen

Canoé fragrance notes

Reviews of Canoé

My memory of Canoe isn't good after not having smelled it since the mid-80s. I liked it alright, but not nearly so well as my Uncle or my brother, who both liked it well enough to make it their signature scents.

I think of it as very dated at this point, but it's cheap now so you might give it a try as a budget cologne or try the aftershave.

I'd give it a 2.5 out of 5
05th February, 2018
Canoe is most certainly the apex babershop fougere. When people ask me how it smells, I tell them it's literally the smell of the powder that the old mom and pop barbershops put on your neck after a fresh cut. This review could end right here if I wanted to be that concise, but it does little justice to the juice and it's history if I do. Canoe started out as an export-only in the US market: troops fighting the Nazis brought it home from France and instantly loved it's light, musky, powdery ambiance, as it was nothing like the spicy and fatty scents they had to subsist with back in the US. The British loved this scent too, as their own leathery and herbal concoctions were not as fresh to the nose, and it quickly became the global standard for the male fougere going forward, but with a dirty secret: It was originally meant to be a women's perfume. Those who know the tale of Shulton's Old Spice (1937), will know how this plays out too: Canoe was developed for Dana by Jean Carles and it was intended for the female audience. But unlike Old Spice's original feminine packaging (when it was called American Old Spice), Canoe was never sold under a different name then rebranded for men, it was just decided that it fit men better and sold in the trademark round bottle it's been known for since day one. Oddly enough, Jean Carles would revisit his creation in 1955 and tweak it for the ladies, creating "Ambush" perfume in the process, but the eventual discontinued fate of that fragrance probably proved that acting on second thoughts doesn't always prove fruitful.

The scent eventually received global distribution and saw shipments to US stores sometime in the 50's, becoming a high-end alternative to the aforementioned Old Spice and other drugstore scents. The man who wore Canoe in those days was a learned, cultured, well-traveled and sophisticated man, of the upper-middle classes bare-minimum, or their sons more likely to be seen in Jack Purcell sneakers than the standard fish heads of the day. The rest of the tale is the usual mass market ubiquity and eventual downmarket dilution that happens to classic fragrances when they literally become too popular for their own good: they becomes too well-known and well-liked to retain their air of prestige and suffer sales drops, then price cuts to keep them competitive as they slide downmarket, eventually leading to reformulations to reduce cost, which was something Canoe suffered long before IFRA standards started affecting fragrances. It didn't help that Dana also crashed and burned, being reborn as New Dana (and eventually Dana Classic Fragrances) after it was absorbed several times into different companies that ate each other along the way. Canoe suffered it's first major stylistic shift formulation in the 90's, when it stopped being made in France, not to meet regulations but to appeal to more modern tastes (it's right in the company's history if you look it up). Afterwards, reformulations were just to mostly meet regulations so there really is no huge difference in the scent of this stuff from 1990's onward, just the stuff beforehand. Canoe from any decade opens mostly the same: there is a big rush of lavender, clary sage, and lemon, but the biggest difference is in the dry-down. Older batches with a white label and cap (made in France) will have much heavier heart notes and base notes, offering a richer vanilla and musk experience past all the flowers and citrus, while the newer stuff finds a shift towards stronger top notes that dominate the fragrance for longer, making it less rounded and more linear, which makes sense if it was aligned for then-modern tastes of the 90's.

IFRA now restricts moss, so the rich base notes could never be restored even if they wanted to, at least not without a surrogate note added. It's honestly fine and still wearable without the heavier base, it just doesn't feel quite as quality or all-season, and shifts more towards a spring-summer scent, without the warmth to pierce colder fall or winter air. Nothing I've said here changes the basic and timeless barbershop vibe though, so if you do not like powdery barbershop tropes, this is the granddaddy of them all so I suggest steering clear. very niche barbershop scent maker that doesn't want to rekindle moustache-wax-eating hipster-friendly Victorian kitsch and become the next Penhaligon's goes strait for Canoe as it's source of inspiration, and I'm pretty sure "Dad's favorite barber" in business since the 50's still uses old stock Canoe talc on his hot towels after giving a buzz cut. Before Canoe, fougeres stood toe to toe with chypres in the male realm, as not everyone was happy with how aromatic or floral they were, but after Canoe shifted in an almost oriental sweetness and toned down the bite, fougeres became the masculine standard, crushing everything else strait on through until present day, despite evolving long past it's now-archaic structure. Wearing this stuff in the 21st century no longer gives off the letterman jacket vibe of a mid-century ivy league alumni, and people will likely just think you enjoy smelling like your dad or buying your cologne from Walmart, but if you want to shut somebody up you can always tell them that at least it still comes in a glass bottle.
23rd October, 2017 (last edited: 03rd April, 2018)
A markedly pleasant and powdery affair that will offend very few with its mild barbershopish (lavender plus) manner. Somewhat sweet in a vanilla way but not cloying. Canoe is a very nice venerable creation that performs quite well on a small investment. It is old but does not small obsolete. A good barbershop never goes out of style, IMO. The only possible concern might be its high degree of exposure over many years.

Trying it for the first time now brought back an ancient memory of my first exposure to it in my youth. Amazing how strong those old scent memories are. An easy thumbs up for both my spouse and me.
02nd April, 2017
The fougère has been a yardstick of masculine perfumery since Houbigant released Fougère Royale in 1882. It is a slow moving genre that has sauntered from decade to decade with periodic touchups. The principle accord of lavender and coumarin can support a wide range of alterations. With a few compositional tweeks fougères have ranged from mossy or aromatic to oriental and aquatic hybrids.

The genre was created by the French, idolized by the British and democratized by Americans. Though Canoe was composed in the 1930s (actual release dates vary) in France, it came to epitomize a populist American style of a fragrance. Until the mossy fougères of the 1960s and aromatic fougères of the 1970s, oily-powdery musky lavenders were the masculine paradigm. The accord was ubiquitous, scenting a range of men's grooming products, becoming the scent of the masculine 'safe zone': the barbershop. (Paradoxically, a heliotrope-inflected version of this accord scented the baby powder of the era as well. Was the American man infantilized or were babies inculcated into the culture of masculinity?) Canoe's vanillic musk bears only a passing resemblance to the fougères of the present. On the other hand, it has much in common with sweet, powdery musks like Helmut Lang edp/edc, le Labo Labdanum 18, Kiehls Musk no 1 and even S-Perfumes S-ex.

Compared to previous fougères Canoe dialed down aromatics and woods and emphasized musky vanillic tones, making it as much an oriental as a fougère. A tart geranium accent steers the perfume away from custard, just as Jicky's dusting of culinary herbs does. Canoe ventures so far from 'pastry' vanilla that it lands in the infamous 'plastic doll head' territory. To the modern nose, geranium gives Canoe a dated feel, but it also cuts the softness and prevents a marshmallow effect. By drydown geranium loses its sticky, green sharpness. What remains is a lingering tartness and a slight rosy hue.

Jean Carles composed Canoe as well as its 1955 sibling Dana Ambush, a fougère marketed to women. The two were the sold as masculine and feminine bookends, though they are enough alike that the gender assignments seem arbitrary. Perhaps Carles took inspiration from Guerlain Jicky, which was launched as a masculine fragrance but became unisex by popular acclamation.

Since Paul Parquet's Houbigant Fougère Royale, each generation has had a version of the genre. There is an unbroken line off fougères nearly 150 long and no other perfume style has the old boy's historical momentum. Penhaligon's and Yardley preceded Canoe, which paved the way for Brut, British Sterling and Grey Flannel. Canoe is still produced, but lacks the roundness of earlier formulations. Fortunately, Canoe has been in production for so many years that large quantities are available on the cheap at ebay. The durable vintage musks and high alcohol content (eau de cologne concentration) preserve older bottles very well.

24th January, 2017
If you had asked 20-25 years ago 'what do I think of the cologne called Canoe'.I'd say all I smell is vanilla and powder...nothing else among the notes therefore teetering between a neutral and thumbs down.Not offensive to wear just plain versus other cheap scents.That's coming from that dark blue/old label bottle pictured and the grey label and top version.I'm in K-Mart last year during the holidays and my wife spots a giftset of Canoe with each a 2oz. cologne and aftershave.So we bought it and figured I could stash it at work to apply at work for when I got off and the fam meets at a restaurant.To be honest I think Dana currently has got the scent right this time...

Splashing it on I get a strong and clean lemon and an herbal zip.That vanilla and powder surfaces but a little lavender in the powder colors it.That lemon note dies off some and the sage note is long gone after about 15 minutes.But that lemon is keeping that powder restrained and clean.I'd think I lucked out and maybe this was a fluke...nope.The 8oz. bottle I bought smells exactly the same.Still a sweet cologne but more in control and expansive by notes that should have been blossoming out back then.
20th November, 2016
For as many reviews as I've read and my attempts to dissect various notes in various fragrances only to become completely confused, I find myself surprisingly in virtually complete agreement with zoghbi here. I got this one many, many, many years ago - I think for Christmas - and I just couldn't get over the cotton candy impression I got from it. The barbershop/Clubman, etc., comparisons just don't make the least bit of sense to me. It's a pleasant fragrance, all right, just not one that I would want to wear. It strikes me as rather feminine, actually, sweet but not floral, and so I'll give it a neutral in that regard. Whatever floats your boat - or canoe, as it were.
26th July, 2016

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