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100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Should Try, part 7: Drugstore Classics

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Itís installment seven and itís time to get unabashedly masculine, so here are some timeless icons:

Drugstore Classics

These old drugstore scents get a bad rap. Sure, for $5.99 a bottle, they canít possibly contain any expensive, top-notch ingredients, but thatís not a fair way to judge them. To put it simply, a menís designer mall release for $60 a bottle doesnít have the budget for top-notch ingredients either, once you factor in advertising and how much they have to pay to get placement in all those Macyís around the country. Yet we believe that a Mugler or a modern Chanel can create greatness with a couple of dollars worth of juice in an expensive bottle, while we donít extend that courtesy to the drug store brands.

So please try to turn off your prejudices and sniff these for what they areÖ

21. Aqua Velva Ice Blue

I have to admit a certain bias here Ė I really like Ice Blue. It combines many ideas that I love. First, that combination of neroli and vetiver that smells like sweet green candy (think Mugler Cologne or Creedís Original Vetiver). Second, the trick of using a menthol note to make a green scent smell icy (If youíve smelled most any of the Guerlain Vetiver flankers or CDGís excellent Zagorsk, youíll know this effect). Third, it uses upfront flowers (especially jasmine) to play against the icy green sweet candied smell (In a way similar to Guerlainís cult favorite Vetiver Pour Elle).

Of course, itís an aftershave splash cologne and itís not designed to last very long. Sooner than later, youíll end up with a pleasant icy nutmeg smell with flowers in the background, but itís a wonderful end to a short but exciting ride.

Oh, and Ice Blue dates back to 1935, so donít pretend all these modern perfumers havenít smelled itÖ

22. Brut by Fabergť

Oh, poor Brut. Decades ago, they used sports stars to advertise themselves as the cologne for regular guys, and it worked. It was everywhere and, being the 60ís through the 80ís, it was strong. When you think of the stereotypical smarmy guy reeking of cheap cologne, it was Brut.

But enough time has passed to go back and look objectively at Brut. Axe and those terrifying Bod body sprays have long since replaced it as the official scent of guys who donít care about cologne, but still wear too much of it.

So what does Brut actually smell like? Itís pretty good, all things considered. Itís got a lot going on, and itís really quite difficult to break it down, mostly because my nose smells it and just thinks ďOh, it smells like Brut.Ē Thereís definitely lavender in there, and an oily leather smell, as well as dark mossy greens. It goes through a really interesting stage of waxy Caron-esque acacia and orange blossom drenched in motor oil and leather thatís worth the $9.99 alone before settling into a soapy powdery floral (like Old Spice) but with a dark green undertone thatís half mossy forest and half mentholated leather and 100% Brut.

And letís not forget that itís simply impossible for anything to be this popular without being an important influence on the industry. While we look back to Eau Sauvage and Aramis as the godfathers of masculine perfumery, most of the masculine scents of the 70ís and 80ís owe a debt of gratitude to Brut, if only for its over-the-top loudness.

23. Dominica Bay Rum

Ok, so this probably doesnít belong here, because youíd have to find an exceedingly well-stocked drugstore to find Dominica Bay Rum. Truly, I should have put this in my first installment, the one with the old historic scents, but I had to do some experimenting to figure out which Bay Rum Iíd want to recommend and I wasnít done on time.

For this list, I picked Dominica out of all the bay rums I could get my hands on because it feels the most authentic to me. Itís still made on the island of Dominica using Dominican bay tree oil (the secret ingredient of a true bay rum), using a centuries-old method of aging the tree oil in a sugar cane rum distillate with spices thrown in, especially cloves. Itís an aftershave splash, so itís not very strong, so go nuts if you really want the full effect.

Bay rum as a genre is really important to menís perfumery. It established cloves as a masculine smell, and the specific way the herbs and the bay tree oil come together to create a tea effect has become a huge influence on modern niche scents, and just about anything using a combination of spices to get a sweet green effect owes a debt to the traditional bay rum recipe.

Any comments? I basically just called out Guerlain for being clearly influenced by Aqua Velva Ė someone must have something to say about thatÖ



  1. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Brut was my first frag. This post can do no wrong!
  2. EdwardBenton's Avatar
    Agreed! When I was a child (like ten years old) I used to run around reeking of Brut! My mother called me "the wee brut brute!" It aint half bad as a fragrance really. If I were to wear something to an old dingy greasy weights room - that's what I'd wear, it punches you in the face and yells "HERES A MAN" then it puts its arm on your shoulder and says "I'm sorry buddy, that's just how I am"
  3. mikeperez23's Avatar
    I have never smelled Aqua Vela so this Guerlain Fan Club Member is intrigued. Although icy nutmeg sounds sort of gross.

    I love Brut. But, gimme a vintage bottle, thank you very much.

    Bay Rum - now we're talking! Clove fanatic here, I've never smelled a bay rum that I don't like. I must try the Dominica one, I didn't know those details you mentioned until now. Is it me, or does the bottle look like you want to drink it?
  4. EdwardBenton's Avatar
    Aqua Velva sounds interesting indeed. Yes I agree nutmeg is a warmer kind of note, frozen nutmeg just sounds wrong. Never been much of a fan of nutmeg in general though - I accidentally took 3 tablespoons (rather than teaspoons) in a sleep aid drink once - the resulting day of sickness has tainted the scent for me!
  5. rogalal's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23
    Bay Rum - now we're talking! Is it me, or does the bottle look like you want to drink it?
    Early on, I'm pretty sure they did. Remember all those stories of cologne in Russia being little more than a way to get alcohol when it was being rationed? The more I read about early perfume history, it's amazing how much early sales all over the world were driven by drinking it...
  6. arwen_elf's Avatar
    I remember finding a bottle of Brut at my uncle's house when I was five years old. I guess I was born a perfumista, because I just had to smell it. It was the most revolting thing I had smelled ever, then again, I was only five.


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