The aromatic blast that introduces Balenciaga’s Portos is a dead ringer for Azzaro pour Homme, which means it’s also a textbook example of the 1980s “power scent.” But where Azzaro blooms into a spicy fougere, Portos follows a path of sweetened patchouli, labdanum resin, and leather. Anyone familiar with Hermes Equipage knows this kind of scent: potent yet civilized, craggy yet also somehow comfortable. It’s all men’s clubs and boardrooms, big leather chairs, martinis, and cigars. Portos’s cousins are scents like Antaeus and perhaps even Yatagan, though it’s less nuanced than the first and far less bold and challenging than the latter. That may ultimately be why the other two have survived it – Portos is not the most distinguished or individual member of this clan. I think that the_good_life nails it when he suggests that Portos represents a sort of common denominator of 1980s masculines. That Portos is the Reagan era’s Jedermann of scent could be part of its appeal for many, but I for one prefer quirkier versions of the big-boned leather chypre formula.
Portos strikes us by soon with its compelling opening conjuring me immediately the barber-shop/mossy/soapy/waxy/aldehydic/animalic Arrogance Pour Homme's beginning (but further concoctions as Equipage, Kouros, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme and Monsieur Rochas jump in a while on mind). The aroma projects by soon a classic waxy/soapy/vaguely camphoraceous/cleaning room foam-like feel reinforced by artemisia, royal bergamot, aromatic green spices and leather/castoreum all over a typically classic barber-shop chypre mossy/animalic "basement". The aldehydes reinforce the waxy/"molecular", slightly humid and vaguely mouldy initial "wadding" while sharp floral patterns (rose-jasmine-geranium in primis) provide a subtle spark of virile neutral sophistication. The leather is present along the dry down but is almost "overshadowed" by tons of moss/labdanum, the note of myrrh provides a huge dose of soapiness, vetiver and patchouli imprint woody stableness and a touch of exoticism while a touch of frankincense provides a weird dusty/mineral final undertone. I disagree (and it's a rare occasion) with the great Foetidus since I don't catch a dominant (too strong) leather, the latter is present for sure but the woodsy/waxy patterns are dominant in this soapy/detergent old-school chypre. The deep dry down is surprisingly delicate and soapy/ethereal, really wearable, dry/clean and comforting. A solid (somewhat forbidding nowadays) classic which, despite is not properly original, smells distinguished and highly recommended for the office and formal occasions.
A classic, powerful, uncompromising fougère. All smells and sounds deep, clear and bold, from materials to composition, to evolution. Slightly more exotic and warm than other scents of this class – Balenciaga's spanish signature, I guess. Citrus, lavender, spices (cumin above all), on a great, dense, rich base of leather and woods, with a sticky, luscious, nasty and raw animalic heart of castoreum. In short, that kind of leathery-animalic rawness which made the '70s/'80s so fun. A bit similar to Puig's Quorum (vtg) for a while, just more green and spicy, and with a more intriguing base of dusty tobacco and vanilla, with a resinous sweet touch of labdanum and myrrh. In then all evolves in a dry, super masculine strong leather drydown which lasts for ages - to be honest, too dry for me; my expectations were a bit more higher. If you had a crazy playboy uncle who drove an Alfa and smoked cubans, chances are he had this among his rotation.
A spicy dry chypre with a warm fragrant central melange of notes. A quality manly fragrance that is sadly discontinued.
The trio of Balenciaga men's scents truly covered all bases: POUR HOMME a classic fougere; PORTOS a classic chypre; HO HANG CLUB a classic powdery balsamic floral. Although they are no longer being manufactured, they are quite prolific on Ebay and I strongly urge you to pick up samples or 1 oz bottles of each to give them a try.
What I like most about PORTOS is its almost total absence of floral notes. The top, heart and base notes abound with mosses, resins, woods, roots. Truly earthy and classy at the same time. A winner.
Any Portos in a storm.
Too much leather and not enough variety for me. Portos comes across as a not-very-special version of an ‘80s leather-dominated power fragrance. I agree with the_good_life that this is merely an averaged-out version of an old leather chypre. There’s just nothing special about it except that, for me, it has too much leather. …But don’t take my word for it, I dislike most leather fragrances.
Pros: A paradigm of an ‘80s leather chypre.
Cons: Not the best paradigm of an ‘80s leather chypre."