The relatively conventional, but extremely well rendered citrus, lavender, and sage top notes that introduce Xeryus are good enough that I’ll apply it again just to get another sniff. The combination is sweet and suave, but the aromatic and animalic facets of the sage note put a darker edge on the accord while balancing the sweetness.
Astringent artemisia and geranium notes, mildly smoky woods, and a quiet floral accord that includes rose and orange blossom anchor the middle section over a foundation of moderately sweet amber and oakmoss. Some kitchen spices, most notably nutmeg and cinnamon, drift into focus after an hour or so of wear, but never grow so strong as to overwhelm the rest. The overall impression is somewhere between a woody oriental and a robust, 1980s-style aromatic fougère: part Héritage, part Lauder for Men.
Xeryus is in fact more restrained than most of the landmark 1980s powerhouse scents, and this restraint leaves it feeling less dated and more wearable than many of its contemporaries. The drydown, with its amber, moss, and animalic traces, is warm, and relaxed, yet civilized. While Xeryus doesn’t jump out and demand my attention once the splendid top notes run their course, it is a satisfying, comfortable scent that probably remains underappreciated alongside its brawnier, yet less amiable, peers.
A note: don’t evaluate Xeryus on paper, where the animalic sage note grows strident, sour, and overbearing.
Very dated and watered down generic woods fragrance. Undiscernable citrus notes. Again, just translates to watery notes with no punch or personality. The amber is more than just a basenote...it is really the only dominant scent after 10 minutes. Xeryus is bland and inoffensive. Does not project much. Lasts 4 to 5 hours on skin.
Two fascinating moments in perfumery happened within a few years of each other. They are the “road not taken” moments. When Thierry Mugler’s Angel hit the scene, women’s perfumery was changed irrevocably. Florals, chypres, traditional orientals were instantly ancien régime. It was a classic paradigm shift, an overthrow of the old order. The floral survived by evolving into Fruity Florals, Orientals were diminished and became Gourmands, Chypres, god help us all, became outlaws and now are effectively black market commodities.
The specifics of how the men’s market changed in the 1980s differ in some respects from the changes in the feminine market, but the parallels and simultaneity of the changes make the similarities more important than the differences. Davidoff Cool Water was the masculine counterpart to Angel.
To say the aromatic fougère was supplanted by the aquatic fougère doesn’t sound like much, but the the newer, more tailored aromatic fougères had just started to surpass the dominance of the 70s big boys like Paco Rabanne Pour Homme and Azzaro Pour Homme. It was the greatest height of the fougère since the release of Fougère Royale in 1882. Musky fougères (YSL Kouros, Paco Rabanne Ténéré, Dior Jules) floral fougères (Caron’s Troisième Homme, Xeryus) spiced fougères (YSL Jazz, Jacomo Anthracite, Laroche Drakkar Noir) were taking the genre in exciting new directions. The fougère is structurally tied to both the oriental (tonka, balsam) and the chypre (oakmoss and coumarin tethering more effusive floral and spiced notes). It is an inherently rich genre and many perfumers were using the fougère structure to find new ideas. It’s worth considering that Michael Edward’s, the most authoritative figure in the nomenclature of perfumery, placed the fougère at the center of the wheel he created as a visual analogy for categorizing perfumes. It is the ur-perfume.
There were still a few great aromatic fougères produced, such as Partick by Patrick of Ireland (1999) a fougère in the chypre direction, and YSL Rive Gauche pour Homme (2003), but for the most part, after the advent of of Cool Water (1988) the aquatic fougère ruled with an iron fist. Dyhydromyrcenol made for the creation of fougères that would have the volume of the best fougère from the 1970s, but lacked the complexity and therefore matched the feminine counterparts that were becoming ever louder, ever simpler fruity florals and candied gourmands. Feminism’s effect on perfumery changed or waned, depending on your perspective, and the empowered feminines like Aromtics Elixir, Scherrer de Scherrer, Dior Diorella, YSL Rive Gauche became ‘Old Lady Perfumes’. Hypergender became a stylistic norm, and countless straight couples could be spotted on the town: her, with hair three feet high and rising dosed with Poison or Angel; him with slicked back hair drenched in Cool Water.
I am sad over the loss of the pre-1988 aromatic fougère. It was just about to take off into some great places. Let’s not forget that these perfume were also the basic blue-print for the 1980’s mens’ power frag. Take a fougère, exchange the lavender for some more spicy elements, and freeze-dry the wood. Voila! Krizia Uomo, Chanel Antaeus, Patou pour Homme. Sometimes the player of a group known for largesse is the one to go for. Scherrer de Scherrer, a chypre that could give Aromatics Elixir a black eye is my go to green/leather chypre. Xeryus has some of that well-dressed thug appeal, seeming more like a perfume for Craig’s Bond than Moore’s. Or perhaps Dench’s M.
Xeryus is becoming on you in the way it allows to you swagger a bit. It lends authority. It’s a remarkably detailed perfume that tells you not to sweat the details. It has a vaguely threatening edge at the same time it lets you be a pretty boy. Great combo of attributes. Definitely a perfume to play with.
The notes listed above don't sound right to me. I've been a fan of Xeryus ever since I first smelled it on a trip to Europe in 1986. I don't get any grapefruit in the top notes, nor much amber in the base. To my nose Xeryus is a spicy coniferous chypre closely related to Weil's Kipling, Francesco Smalto and Drakkar Noir. H & R's Fragrance Guide lists notes that sound much more like my impression of Xeryus --- at least, the original formulation of it:
Top: Bergamot, mandarin, mace, lavender, lemon, green note
Middle: Cyclamen, geranium, juniper, clary sage, estragon, petitgrain, coriander, jasmin, cypress
Base: Sandalwood, vetiver, moss, fir, musk, cedar, cistus
The opening is fresh and slightly sweet, but not overly so, and the drydown fades into a wonderfully woody forest. It reminds me of walking in a redwood grove where the air is fresh and alive with negative ions, scented with wood, bark, damp earth and green needles. It's been a staple in my collection since 1986, and one I still enjoy wearing regularly.
if you're a fan of Amber, as I am, then this is a good place to start. It is a friendly fragrance and projects an air of sophistication without insisting upon itself.