A perfume story: Review of Old Spice by Proctor & Gamble (originally by Shulton) © 2016 Frankie Chocolate
[For Albert Hauck]
I was strolling through Versailles the other day. As I wandered down the rue du Parc de Clangny the thought occurred to me Iíd like to pick up some new perfume.
Of course not just any perfume but I needed the good stuff. The stuff beyond the stuff I bought last timeówhatever that stuff was. The stuff dreams are made of. I know, I know some of you will insists I stole that line from Dashiell Hammett but just the opposite is true. I have every suspicion that Hammett was a time traveling alien who came forward, read this story and lifted it wholesale for his own use back in the day. Want proof? I could give it but D.H. would just come through time and swipe it again. Iíve written this five times so far and it just keeps vanishing so just take my word for it.
I opened the door at # 36 swept past the receptionist and opened the private door to the founderís office. Jean, I told him. I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell. Jean Val Jean looked up from his papers and said, It est vous. Comment ťtait-ce Frankie? , Oh itís you. How was that Frankie? I narrowed my eyes and told him I needed something special.
Vous et mille autres fous, you and a thousand other cools. I think that last word was cools but my French is rusty.
Take your pick he told me in Frenchy English.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. The perfume, kept in the subterranean chamber carved out of living stone beneath a French perfume museum is not open to the public. Yeah I know youíve heard about the nobody gets in here to smell our juice room. Iím not talking about that one. Iím talking about the other one. The one below that one.
The double secret lower room that even the Pope couldnít con his way into. Mm. Okay maybe the Pope but no way any of the Cardinals and for sure not you.
Some would say they earned the right to enter the nobody gets in here room because theyíve blessed the museum with an impossibly rare quarter ounce of something that transcends beauty and it's still in itís battered black box and they picked it up for a song at a Russian flea markets right outside where they used to make Red October chocolates in Moscow just a firing squads distance away from the Moskva river.
Let em think they got to the good stuff. The most rare and difficult to find stuff. What they donít know is that I discovered the other other room. The stuff they keep in there is so good youíd throw stones at the stuff in the first room.
I came across a thread of a rumor of a whisper of the double secret room on a chat room dedicated to perfume called Pepe Le Pew lives. Nobody was saying much but I put nothing and nothing together and wormed it out of the moderator. I traveled all over the world and saved Val Jean's dog from hungry Vietnamese and a few other things so he owed me and I was here to collect.
I stared at Jean and told him I want in on the double secret room. He scoffed and scorned, ridiculed and railed. You are mad. There is no chambre secrŤte. I held my peace and waited. He fumed and fulminated, frothed and fibbed and declared there was no double secret room. I stared.
He started sweating like the Illuminati were going through his trash and finally he came across. He came clean. He coughed it up.
He rang up Yves the cellar manager who told me, we were never here and you never saw what Iím about to show you.
Whatever you say pal.
He took me down to the you ainít getting in here room walked to the back wall and pressed a handle holding a flaming torch on the wall. Yonder behind the curtain lay the double secret room full of some really special stuff.
I sniffed around and was about to settled on something called Olde Noah # 55 a 4,000-year-old Oud made from the wood and resins Noah used to build the ark. If you smelled this stuff youíd throw rocks at the 180-year-old Ouds some of these jokers are passing off as mature. One sniff of old # 55 and you were completely spoiled. Top notes were impossibly deep amber resin. The heart notes were saber-toothed tiger. The base notes had a little frankincense in the dry down. What was left over they sold to the three wise men that brought it to baby Jesus
I was just about to grab a five-gallon pail of Olde Noah # 55 when I noticed another curtain at the back so I pushed it aside and walked in.
At a bench in the back surrounded by all the tools of a perfumer sat an older man, white wispy hair, short in stature, in tweeds with Harry Potter glasses. Albert Hauck the nose behind Old Spice.
Dude. Youíre Albert Hauck. You created Old Spice.
Hello kid itís good to see you again.
Have we met before?
Not officially but I seen you around.
When you were a kid and your dad Sam was shaving. Heíd hack his face up pretty good and have to use a styptic pencil and little bits of toilet paper on his face to stop the bleeding. Then heíd pry off the white cap on his bottle of Old Spice, pour some into his hands, grit his teeth and slap it on.
I remember that. Heíd go outta the house smelling like a million bucks. He smelled confident with his shoulders squared back, grit in his eye and determination in his heart. He was ready to take on the world for us.
I used to love Old Spice. When I got older my ma got me a little bottle for my birthday. It was a rite of passage saying today youíre a man. Honestly though Al I tried the stick deodorant and it was crap. It smelled nice and flowery but three hours later my armpits stank.
Youíre right kid. The deodorant was crap. Mitchum is a lot better. But you gotta love the new commercials P&G is coming out with now.
That black guy on the horse with diamonds pouring outta his hands? Brilliant.
What did you put in Old Spice Al?
I put my heart and soul into Old Spice is what I put. This was 1937. We were newly married and Marge was expecting our first kid and the boss told me if I didnít come up with a winner and quick he was gonna find another perfumer who could make something that sold. I was under the gun and needed a miracle.
So how youíd come up with the idea?
First I prayed a lot. Then I went home to Iowa and while visiting my grandma I seen her spice jar up in the cupboard. She had all kinda stuff in there and when I smelled it it calmed and comforted me. I sniffed that old jar for a long time and knew if I could come up with something that smelled that good that Iíd have a home run.
So whatís in it anyway?
Oranges and lemons and spices. Some cinnamon, jasmine, a little vanilla and Ambergris. Good stuff. Stuff like bay rum and things. I brought the jar back with me to the shop and worked on it straight for three days without sleep. When I was done I gave it to the boss and he sent it lab guys who whipped up a batch. I didnít know if I still had a job or what but I was dead on my feet. I went home and Marge tucked me in. I was delirious for three days.
When I woke up there was steak and eggs sizzling in the kitchen of our crummy little cold water flat. Honey whatís all this? We canít afford no steak and eggs.
I know dear but I wanted to give you something special. You boss called while you were sleeping. You were really sick sweetheart.
Never mind that now. Whatíd he say? Do I still have a job? Whatíd he say?
First you drink a cup of coffee then we talk. The look in her eye told me she wasnít taking no for an answer so I shuffled to the kitchen dinette and plopped in my chair. The coffee tasted good. I put some milk and sugar in there and it tasted good. The steak and eggs looked good too.
I offered up a small prayer, tucked in and made short work of it. Toast and home made strawberry preserves her ma had given us last Christmas. Beefsteak and three eggs over easy just the way I like em. Jeeze it tasted good. She warmed up my cup and I doctored it again. I looked at her over the top of it.
Whatíd he say?
He says he likes it. He says he thinks its got legs. Heís gonna call it Early American Old Spice for women. And if it does as well as he thinks theyíre gonna follow it up with Old Spice for menÖ
Wow Al that was some story I told him.
Yeah kid. Old Spice has been around a while.
A while? Itís the most popular menís fragrance ever produced.
It got quiet and silence has never been my friend so I finally blurted out, I got a confession to make Al.
Whatís that kid?
When I was young I loved you. I loved old spice. But as I got older I wanted to be more mature. More sophisticated so I tried other perfumes. The final nail in the coffin was one day me and Phil Buesson were sitting in a booth eating dinner and we heard a couple of young turks in the next booth saying they wanted some fresh new cologne.
They didnít want to end up smelling like their dadís Old Spice. I thought it wasnít cool to love you any more so I gradually just stopped using Old Spice.
Yeah. I know.
I been looking all my life for something to fill the emptiness and nothing really does it. Sometimes I feel like Iíve just wasted my life. I coulda done so much more.
But you did so much kid.
I should of done more. Can I come back to see you some time?
You can come back any time you want. Iím always here.
And we can talk about the old times?
We can talk about anything you want kid butÖ
Your life ainít over yet. We could maybe talk about new things too.
What do you mean?
I mean you still got a lot of living to do. We could talk about the grand kids or writing great stories and stuff like that.
Iím not a very good writer.
No. But youíre trying kid. You havenít given up. Youíre still striving. You got the fire, a spark of it anyway and thatís something. Oh and just between you and me?
It upset me when you forgot about me and went after all that weird crap trying to fill that hole in your heart but I knew deep down you belonged to me and one day youíd come back.
You knew that? How did you know that?
How? Because I know things is how.
So youíll be right here if I need to talk to you Al?
Right here kid.
Oh, kid, I almost forgot. I got a lil something something for you. A parting gift if you will.
Whatís that? One of those really cool really early Old Spice bottles with only blue letters on it?
Nah. You can get those on EBay anytime you want.
What is it?
I found some of the vintage stuff. I think it goes back to the sixties or seventies before they changed the formula.
Before me on the table were three or four little glass bottles of Old Spice. One of them was even the long lasting cologne.
Wow. You hooked me up. Iím set for a long time.
For years kid. For years.
Why is it Al when you get something perfect someone comes along and waters it down and changes it?
Síits the way of the world kid. The old days seem better than these. The old days had their problems too but we donít remember them. Itís like Barbara Streisand sang, whatís too painful to remember we simply chose to forget. So we wish for the past, for simpler days with fewer problems. But hereís the thing kid. I know you wrote about Dashell swiping your stuff but outside a science fiction novel no one goes back in time and changes their past. We all got regrets about stupid things we did and thatís why time travel is so appealing. Like Marty Mc Fly we figure if we can just get the flux capacitor working, if we can just go back and do things differently, or if somehow we could just get the winning Powerball numbers every ting will be ire.
Maybe then we can move forward with our lives and be happy. But you canít go back in time. The devil brings up the sins of your youth and whispers in your ear if you could only go back and change things it would all be all right. Youíre caught in a loop with no way out and alls you really want is to just be forgiven, take the load off your back and go forward with you life.
There was something in my eye so I turned away and wiped it out. When I turned back Al was mixing some up something out of this world. I spritzed some of the long lasting cologne on my hand and sniffed. Amber. Powdery. Bay Rum. Old school in the best of all ways.
I picked up my juice and walked back through the curtain. As I did Al started whistling a tune. A memory, soft like her soft laugh came up. What was that tune? Then I remembered and smiled and sniffed my hand again as I walked out of the museum and into warm afternoon sunshine.
"Disney Girls (1957)"
By Bruce Johnston
Clearing skies and dryin' eyes
Now I see your smile
Darkness goes and softness shows
A changing style
Just in time, words that rhyme
Well bless your soul
Now I'll fill your hands
With kisses and a tootsie roll
Oh, reality, it's not for me
And it makes me laugh
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
Patti Page and summer days
On old Cape Cod
Happy times makin' wine
In my garage
Country shade and lemonade
Guess I'm slowing down
It's a turned back world
With a local girl in a smaller town
Open cars and clearer stars
That's what I've lacked
But fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
Love, hi Rick and Dave
Hi pop, good morning, mom
Love, get up guess what
I'm in love with a girl I found
She's really swell 'cause she likes
Church, bingo chances and old time dances
All my life I spent the night
With dreams of you
And the warmth I missed
And for the things I wished
They're all coming true
I've got my love to give
And a place to live
Guess I'm gonna stay
It'd be a peaceful life
With a forever wife
And a kid someday
Well, it's earlier nights
And pillow fights
And your soft laugh
Fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
18th January, 2016 (last edited: 19th January, 2016)
My review is for the Old Spice produced in India. From what I understand the Indian version is as close a one can get to the original Shulton formula. Also as a huge plus, the bottle from the Indian version is glass and not plastic!!
I love Old Spice. It is the perfect aftershave to slap on (in small amounts for me) when I do not feel like wearing a strong fragrance. It's there throughout the day and I know it's there, but it becomes a personal scent. The ladies love the musk!!
I'm not quite a "young man" anymore, but I'm not "old" either. I've loved Old Spice since I was a little boy, and I can remember sniffing at my dad's bottle in my parents' bathroom and thinking that the name suited the smell very well -- to me it smelled "older" and it was definitely "spiced." My dad wore it and the smell made its way into the favorable part of my brain. By that measure, I've never worried about smelling "old" or whatever wearing it because I wear it for me, not for anybody else. The smell that got etched into my memory was whatever formulation was going around in the late 80s and early 90s. You know, the one that others moan about. I love this scent, and it was my first aftershave. I will say that this formulation, which came in a glass bottle, was different from the one in the plastic bottle you can find today. The plastic one smells good initially but then turns very cloying and synthetic, so I just threw it away. The glass one I grew up with didn't do that, it was just nice and mellow, clean and warm with no chemical smells. Now at age 28, I have both a glass bottle of P&G OS that is the formulation I grew up with, and an old bottle of Shulton OS that I only came to know recently. I love them both. They're similar but distinctly different. The Shulton, to my nose, smells "older" for sure, and by that I mean heavier and spicier. I can only wear the Shulton one during cold weather, and all I need is the aftershave. The Shulton cologne is too much for me. Anyway, I love them both and to me they are timeless and respected. Whatever lucky girl I end up with is going to have to learn to love Old Spice if she doesn't already, because I have no intent to part with this beloved smell of classic masculinity. I attached a photo of my two bottles in case anyone was wondering what they look like. The aftershave on the left is Shulton, and the cologne on the right is P&G.
In post WW-II America, every dad and grand dad had a bottle of Old Spice in the bathroom medicine cabinet. It is probably the most popular male scent ever produced.
The original is a barbershop fantasy - the citrus, bay, clove spiciness is very strong and lasting. Bracing and the cinnamon, amber, frankincense and vanilla base warm it to a powdery softness in the dry down.
A masterful barbershop fougere.
Beware the current reformulation with its emphasis on rose, pepper and bay. It bears no relation to the original.
A late returnee to Old Spice here and the surprise is a pleasant one. I've encountered bottles at varying points in the last 30-odd years, but now it seems the time is right.
I can't remember if the scent of those past bottles differs from the current one I have. This one is the 'original' aftershave, purchased in Europe and apparently made here. Very reasonably priced and in the satisfyingly weighty glass bottle.
Some of the negative reviews have dismissed it as a cheap musk-bomb, but that's a highly simplistic appraisal. As it goes on the first experience is the spiced orange-bergamot with a light talc-like undertone. This rapidly gives way to the cinnamon mingling with roses, but the bottom notes also start to emerge quite early on. Eventually those bottom note aromas of woodiness, muskiness and the frankincense -citrus spiciness, which is really there throughout, give a warming finish. Like warm, spiced brandy and woodshavings dropped into a beautiful lady's leather handbag...if you will!
The top and middle notes don't last quite long enough before the bottom notes take over, which is it's only real fault. The spicy dry-down also manages not to smell like detergent.
Yes, it has the associations with traditional grooming and barbershops and clubs of another era (nearly everyone once wore it), but that is reassuringly satisfying. Old Spice doesn't shout like a modern fragrance, it is subdued and self-assured.
Some young-men under 30 will probably not want to, or be able to wear Old Spice without feeling self-consciously fogeyish; though for others it may just work. The 20-something crowd need not even apply to club Old Spice, but for the over 30s it can work a treat.
04th May, 2015 (last edited: 05th May, 2015)
A very spicy and floral scent that has stood the test of time. I'm in my mid 30's and use it every day. If you want to experience the true classic scent of Old Spice, you need to purchase the Indian made version. It comes in the classic glass bottle and has the "true" fragrance of Old Spice. For some reason, the USA Proctor and Gamble version smells too sweet while the Indian made version smells just right (more spicy and less sweeter than the USA version).