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Krak des Chevaliers

Victor Hugo, hélas!

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At Sephora this morning I put on some Azzaro (the original yellow stuff). I had been interested in Azzaro because of its conceptual descent from Aramis, which I love, but the experience was a difficult one. With Aramis, I am brought to mind of some majestic jungle cat pissing on whatever it is they piss on to mark their territory: The smell is pure alpha male, no sentimentality and no apologies. Azzaro gives me the same cat relieving himself on my grandmother's jewelry case. That is to say, despite its swagger, there's something oddly soft and mumsy underneath this frag, a mellow pastel, that undermines its premise and disturbs me. Yet I can tell that in its way it is a great bottle: multilayered, quizzical, elusive.

That brings me to the title of this post, which is what André Gide said when asked to name the greatest French poet. I had a similar experience not long ago when given ten seconds to name the three greatest figures in post-WWII American music--I came up with Bob Dylan, James Brown, and Hank Williams. They're reasonable-enough choices, and I might respond the same way even if given more time, but I don't really love any of them.

What about fragrance? Are there scents you genuinely acknowledge to be in some way "great," but that you don't actually like? For me, in addition to Azzaro, I might name Chanel No. 5 and GIT, but the list might get long if I thought about it...
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  1. anomie et ivoire's Avatar
    Azzaro gives me the same cat relieving himself on my grandmother's jewelry case. That is to say, despite its swagger, there's something oddly soft and mumsy underneath this frag, a mellow pastel, that undermines its premise and disturbs me. Yet I can tell that in its way it is a great bottle: multilayered, quizzical, elusive.
    What an excellent description! I haven't tried to fragrance, but can, unfortunately, imagine it so much to almost smell it.

    Are there scents you genuinely acknowledge to be in some way "great," but that you don't actually like?
    Samsara is a great wide-appeal comforting oriental that I don't at all like.
    For some reason, almost every single Hermes classic scent is obviously great in that each smells original and classic, but I dislike them all: a bit musty, strong, and generic rich lady. Most of the other sacred holies I end up liking, but it'd be sort of satisfying not to! One less thing to buy. Kilian, L'Artisan, and most Lutens are underwhelming but I can always see their appeal.

    I had a similar experience not long ago when given ten seconds to name the three greatest figures in post-WWII American music--I came up with Bob Dylan, James Brown, and Hank Williams. They're reasonable-enough choices, and I might respond the same way even if given more time, but I don't really love any of them.
    Good point about how thinking of things in terms of ranking, "bests," and classics irons out subtleties too much and shortchanges the careful connections of personal taste in favor of an often dull and simplified accepted historical narrative.

    I've been on a little quest to try some of the most critically-panned cheapo-hated fragrances recently and have found a few are really not as bad as they're made out to be: Estee Lauder Spellbound (clove-o-rama--many people hate cloves, I love them), Ex'clamation (weird, loud, sodapop rose cheer but not awful), and Elizabeth Taylor Passion (the women's one, classic incense velvety moodiness) to name a few. The trick is to apply very, very sparingly these heady 80s-type concoctions. I can see that they're all strong and not terribly expensive smelling in the top notes, but the drydowns are all pretty satisfying, that is for cheap juice. I certainly enjoy them all more than L'Artisan anything. Or well, at least I like them as time capsules of what were popular scents in their day that are 10x better than the popular bore-fests around now.
    Updated 21st August 2012 at 02:25 PM by anomie et ivoire
  2. Hojji77's Avatar
    I like your initiative to explore and rehabilitate critically-unloved fragrances. It seems to me that there are perhaps fewer masculines than feminines that are really loathed by the cognoscenti, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's that there are not as many truly loud men's scents; the ones that get panned suffer for being "timid," "banal," or "clones," seldom for being outrageously awful. The current whipping boy seems to be AdG, which strikes me as an unremarkable perfume whose primary sin is its overbroad popularity.

    It has sometimes crossed my mind to see if there is anything good in the widely-dismissed men's category of "sport" or "ice" fragrances, but it's not a project that I feel inclined to spend much $ on...

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