Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme is a fantastic leather fragrance with timeless feel and appeal. Like many fragrances from its era, VCA pH has a cacophonous array of notes and needs a few wearings to have the merest grasp about its depth and facets. It opens up on the skin with a beautiful dark green spicy soapy vibe with leather and deep woods lurking underneath; there is the citrus and the lavender, but completely overshadowed by this central green, dark spicy vibe. This opening in itself is cerebral, and arresting like few others. Then the green vibe subsides a bit. The fragrance moves into its heart phase. A dark, brooding masculine rose note presents itself, with the leather and the woods now more prominent. This rose note is almost a mystery- it takes at least 10 wearings to feel it. But once discovered, it is there every time. The fragrance is now a glorious cornucopia of leather, woods, spices and florals while simultaneously retaining its vague soapy theme. It is deep, dark, unmistakably masculine, and even brooding. The projection is good at first and then dies down, but the fragrance has great longevity. Even as the hours grow weary, its aura is perceived in the air around the skin.
Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme’s conventional bergamot and lavender top notes are deceptively subtle given the power this scent unleashes after a half an hour on the skin. By that point Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme has arrayed cedar, leather, patchouli, and vetiver atop a dry mossy wood foundation. It’s the vetiver and patchouli that dominate for some time, placing Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme firmly within the realm of “gentleman’s club” scents, epitomized by “Vintage” Tabarome, and also occupied by Macassar, Baladin, and Équipage.
This whole style is unfashionable right now, but even so, I don’t think Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme represents the best its genre has to offer. Scents like Jules and Lauder for Men exhibit a similar gravity, but with more conspicuous animalic accents that make them less staid and stodgy. In its favor, I can say of Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme that it avoids the belching, buttcrack-showing crudeness of Macassar. On the other hand, it really is more than a little dull. As it ages, Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme bounces back and forth indecisively between leather chypre and heavy fougère, before settling into a comfortable, but hardly distinctive, moss, cedar, and patchouli drydown. OK, I suppose, but no match for the finest in its class.
To me VC&A PH is elegant and sophisticated, it sort of conveys a certain 'savoir vivre'.
It's a classic dark scent with a very appealing 'Old World' aristocratic feel. A bastion of a certain way of life.
It's a beatiful rich, dark classic gentleman's scent that I love to wear.
In short it's the Château Lafite of the world of gentleman's fragrances.
I remember once trying an experiment in 'persistence of vision'. You stare at a flag like a tricoleur, or a union jack, or the stars and stripes, for about two minutes without moving, and then turn and look a t a blank white wall. On the wall, you see the flag, but with all the colours and tone values reversed, like a negative.
I think the same phenomenon is at play here, in the olfactory sense. As the fragrance evolves, the disappearing first wave leaves behind it a perceived negative. This negative seems to work well as an accompaniment to the emerging bitumen and charcoal of the base. This fools you into thinking you smell good.
However, try this: spray it on something in the room. Leave the house for the day, and come back several hours later. Sparing yourself thus the olfactory fatigue and 'persistense' effect, you walk into the developed fragrance unmitigated.
Old peoples's homes. Decay. Cough syrup. Dandylion and Burdock cordial. Wizened academic with elbow-pads. Smoker's curtains. A mantelpiece with a plastic quartz carriage clock beside photographs of cats. Coffee-and-cream slacks and cardigan. Mothballs. Post office. The man who collects the twist ties from loaves of bread, because they might be useful one day.
To smell yourself as others smell you.
Classic dark Fougère
The vintage version:
Bergamot and juiper berries with a hint of green start it off, and soon vetiver, patchouli and orris are mixed in. Further along castoreum and labdanum blend in well with the typical oakmoss. The moss is not very harsh and not too dominant, but blends in well with the musk and the leather notes in the base. Interestingly, the whole process lasts less than two hours with little development on my skin after that. Good silage and projection with a splendid longevity of nine hours. Dark, rich but not very loud on me. A great classic.