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Wild Gardener

Who wants to be Boss?

Rating: 2 votes, 3.00 average.
Sometimes life proceeds through conflict. According to the philosopher Hegel this happens when a force reacts with its opposite and out of the resulting conflict something better is created. To put it in his terminology, thesis plus antithesis leads to synthesis on a higher level.

A good example comes from a period exactly one hundred years ago when two of the greatest perfumers were at the height of their powers. When Jacques Guerlain smelt his rival's ground breaking Chypre he didn't at first know what to do. The story is that one day he took some of the new peach aldehyde he'd been experimenting with and added a dash to some Chypre, just to see what would happen... Many will already know how the story ends.

In this scenario Coty's Chypre was the original idea - the thesis, C14 was the antithesis - a new molecule with the potential to disrupt the status quo, and the resulting synthesis was Mitsouko (1919) an acknowledged masterpiece, and certainly on a higher level than the original - but flawed Chypre.

Sometimes however, attempts to improve on an original form don't come up with anything new, as was the case with Boss Number One. Boss No.1 is described as an aromatic fougère by Fragrantica, and on its webpage Boss characterise it as what appears to be a spicy oriental, containing as it does "nutmeg, cardamom, patchouli, sandal and balsamic accords." By my own assessment it's a bitter-sweet aromatic oriental, built on a spine of dry resins with powdery, herbal and spicy facets. It also tends to go salty in the drydown.

Boss Number One arrived on the scene in 1985 and not long after that two other works appeared in the same vein, Obsession for Men and Zino Davidoff. These two weren't - as it were - forged by Hegelian synthesis from Boss No.1 however, quite the opposite. Instead of disrupting Boss' profile with a radically new element they simply divided it in two, OfM taking one side and Zino the other.

Obsession for Men increased Boss No.1's existing powdery sweetness by several orders of magnitude, which results in a pillowy soft profile full of sweet nothings - which almost completely hide the base. Zino, on the other hand stripped out the residual powder and massively boosted the aromatics with rosewood, and with the help of some herbals chiselled out a hard flat and sour profile that has a totally opposite character to OfM.

These mid-eighties oriental fougères use more or less the same palette of materials, with almost nothing added and hardly anything taken away. Despite this, their differences are striking - especially between Obsession for Men and the other two, or at least it seems that way on the surface. If one examines them more closely however, it's evident that Zino and Obsession for Men are little more than realignments in perfumery space of the elements of Boss Number One. And in the light of this it becomes clear that Zino and OfM weren't products of creative conflict at all but the results of consensus.

Updated 12th January 2019 at 07:41 AM by Wild Gardener



  1. ClockworkAlice's Avatar
    This was an interesting and informative read, thank you!


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