Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

Total Reviews: 76

Stetson Black by Stetson

Stetson Black is a strange and far-reaching masculine that tries to ape the style of many popular late 80's and 90's scents. I can gather that the target demographic Coty was trying to reach with this stuff was assumed to not particularly care about distinction or originality, but rather just the Stetson name as a brand they trusted. I can further surmise that these same potential buyers had probably never smelled any of the things this scent was attempting to emulate, let alone recognize their piecemeal addition to the Voltron-in-a-bottle that is this cologne. The entire "black" fragrance trope to begin with was pretty undefined, as all of the most notable scents within it were "darker" flankers to bigger and older marquee scents, and "darker" is defined rather subjectively in the realm of fragrance anyway. I can't hate this stuff, because my mother loves it so and won't stand without me having a bottle in my collection, so I'm more acquainted with it than I perhaps should be otherwise.

The smell opens with some spice and what to my nose smells like a dry cherry accord. I know the official notes say otherwise, but the melange of herbs, pepper, spice, woods, musk, and the token vetiver note come across as cherry to me, just a sour candy kind of cherry and not the rounded cordial cherry or maraschino cherry that would have made this more of a gourmand scent. This dry and sour cherry is met with moss, sandalwood, a leather note, and patchouli all the way down in the base, so therein lies the "dark" smokey base anchor this needed to fit it's description of a "black" flanker. Stetson Black wears pretty fine for what it is, and overall smells like what one would get if Coty reformulated the much-better Preferred Stock (1990) to be a bit fruitier in tone and -even- sweeter than it already is, with a bunch more leather in the base to compensate. It sort of takes that same Preferred Stock route to the dry down too, going from soap and synthetics right up front, and ending in a haze of blended dry fixatives that make the Walmart equivalent to a sensual skin scent. Again, not terrible, just not particularly original either.

If you always wanted a less-scary or more masculine Joop Homme (1989), this is a good surrogate, but you'll sacrifice a whole lot of quality for that more buttoned-down approach to a fruity floral blast. Stetson Black also works as a scent that's just meant to be pleasant, safe, and a bit darker than the aquatic or ozonic meat grinder that most commercial houses were still making us traverse even into the 2000's. The scent just can't be disliked, but neither is it really noteworthy, or unique. It's a "black" flanker for a scent that really couldn't benefit from such a thing (Stetson original is furthest from anything that would impart edginess), and ultimately just becomes a cork board with a scattering of inspirations pinned to it. There's a bit of ozonic here, a bit of floral, maybe a touch of gourmand. Spicy cherry woods and musk in a black bottle. I can't really get past that initial impression. Do yourself a favor and only wear it if somebody you care about likes it on you, which is my case.
17th December, 2017

That Man by Revlon

It's quite sad that Revlon as a fragrance brand quite literally makes none of it's own masculines anymore, instead choosing to distribute designer brands under it's corporate umbrella, as it did have quite a number of good ones, starting with this debut in 1958. The story behind this fragrance is fairly unique, and while I won't repeat it here in the review, as it can be seen in the blurb for this page, I'll add that Charles Revson very closely oversaw this, as he would most Revlon masculines through until his death in 1975, even if he didn't directly supervise it's composition himself like he did with Braggi. This was the return-fire to Elizabeth Arden's "Arden Men" series of colognes, most of which focused on accentuating a single primary note (e.g. Sandalwood), while That Man was a full-blown abstract aromatic citrus "chypre" like the French design houses were making at the time, but made for the drugstore budget of the typical Revlon customer at the time. The modest budget of the scent didn't stop Revlon from parading around it's "sophistication" in the same way domestic sparkling wine tries to feign champagne class, which honestly adds to the fun of wearing this.

The original box flap read, and I quote: "A forthright, truly masculine fragrance." that was followed with a pamphlet that fully described the scent as "never sweet, never overstated" (see pics below for full blurb) before going into the notes, which is something meant to impress, I'm sure. Revlon went all-out on this as a full line when it first launched, making after shave, soap and even a scary "skin bronzer" for the stuff back in the day, so it was clear that they wanted this as the end-all be-all signature smell for the men who used it. Most amusingly of all, is the fact that this stuff is gussied up to be so upper-class in the packed-in advert, with a nonchalant man who's face is blacked out, looking detached from everything around him in the photos, with discerning taste, adventurous, yet civilized blah... give me a break! Long story short, this pretty well apes the vibe of Moustache Rochas (1949) with it's heavy lemon, civet, sandalwood, dry lavender, and according to Revlon's own advert, a "tabac" note. It's a right good chypre that comes across with a bit of that characteristic lemon/civet skank in the opening, but soon simmers down to something with a twang of the remaining citrus, the warmth of the woods, and maybe just a faint hint that tobacco in the dry down.

That Man certainly isn't as scary in the opening salvo as some other things in it's class, and it also is a bit deeper in the base than many citrus scents of this type, but one area it doesn't compare is in depth. That Man is ultimately a product of a major cosmetic corporation, so no matter how well it imitates classy French design, it's still far simpler in it's transition from top notes to bottom, with a lot less variation in the way it smells from the point it hits skin to the moment it fades away. Some may call this consistency, and ironically a scent that remains true to it's opening from start to finish seems to be preferred nowadays over stuff that transforms as it wears, but the fact is it's just a hallmark of it's original price point. The really woodsy, herbal, aromatic, and citrusy stuff really suits my tastes so I couldn't help but give this 5 stars, but I'm going to admit that's a subjective ruling since I'm a huge fan of this style. The only other American company really trying to do this type of thing was Avon, who would give a whack at it with Tribute for Men in 1963. That one is dare I say better constructed than this one and has a noticeable dry down. Simply put, this is a very solid and classy citrus chypre made to sell at the five and dime. It's less sophisticated than it pretends to be, and all the more charming for it.
16th December, 2017

Royal Copenhagen by Royal Copenhagen

Royal Copenhagen was, is, and always will be a very divisive scent, but most really bold, loud, and often unique masculines are; just ask anybody who wears Kouros, Joop, Le Male, or 1 Million how many folks have both loved and hated their signature fragrance. This was the second major masculine fragrance from Swank, following up on their hit Jade East, and like that Asian-inflected oriental fougère, this also comes in like a wrecking ball, but does it without the "Green Hell" this time around. The Royal Copenhagen name and it's 3 wave logo were licensed by Swank for the scent from the Royal Porcelain Factory in Copenhagen Denmark, which used the "Royal Copenhagen" name to sell it's plates globally. It wasn't an obvious choice for the creation of a fragrance line, especially not a masculine one, as buying fine china didn't necessarily scream masculinity in 1970, but since the Scandinavian-originating Kanøn cologne was selling so well, it might have seen like an appropriate move to compete against it. Royal Copenhagen eventually became sort of it's own brand after it's success, and obviously broke away from it's originating parent company Swank, being made under license by Five Star Fragrances.

The scent of original Royal Copenhagen cologne is unmistakably complex, rich, powdery, and floral for a masculine, which attributes to both it's divisive shock value and it's longevity in day wear. A melange of over 20 notes comprise the scent, but the laundry list of notes essentially outlines a composition that puts citrus, aldehydes, and spices at the top, florals not common to masculine fragrance since the 19th century in the middle (lots of rose and jasmine here), and pretty much every commonly found base note at the time to anchor it all down. Heliotrope, the aforementioned aldehydes, cedar, musk, moss, tonka, all these hard-hitting notes play at commandeering the scent but when blended down they form something that's shimmery and sweet, clean and sort of asexual. A lot of younger people who came into their own long after this scent was past it's prime often decry it as smelling of nursing homes or baby cribs due to it's heavy resemblance to institutional talcum powder (blame the heliotrope), which is both cruel and unfair to the scent itself as it's tantamount to saying anything with patchouli in it is for hippies. Granted, this is definitely for mature guys and for formal or work conditions only, but you don't have to be on kidney dialysis or still learning your first words to appreciate the smell.

Ultimately, Royal Copenhagen is for the guy who wants to be noticed when he enters the room, to create a little confusion, and probably asked what he's wearing, much like the aforementioned wearers of Joop or 1 Million. Due to the scent's age, less people now may remember it than others in it's similarly strong league, so the wearer of Royal Copenhagen may just get his wish. However, louder isn't always better, and if you're already not a fan of the oriental/fougère crossovers of the 60's and early 70's, this is simply more of what you already don't want turned up way intensity. I find the scent very agreeable in winter, where it's rich and powdery sweetness ring out against the cold air, making for a very pleasant and ever-present work companion during the holidays if one spends a lot of time outside. Granted, coming back indoors can prove alarming as the scent "wakes up" more in warm air, so taking it easy is still recommended. It has it's place even for the modern man in the wardrobe if worn in the right context, just that context is much narrower now than maybe it was at launch 40+ years ago. Perhaps it was made to survive the Danish winters on the waterfront, where frosty oceanic air would abolish pretty much all sense of smell to begin with, but whatever the method behind this one's madness, it's definitely a love-it-or-shove-it that might even be an acquired taste. Wear with caution, or with caution to the wind, your choice!
15th December, 2017
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Monsieur de Givenchy by Givenchy

Monsieur Givenchy is a fragrance created on the heels of a predecessor, in much the same way Guerlain's Vetiver would be a take on the emerging category of "vetiver masculine" and like Guerlain's scent, wasn't necessarily an attempt at outdoing what came before but rather just place a unique spin on the style. The aromatic citrus was one rare instance where the chypre-type actually worked for masculine composition, and ever since it gained popularity at the end of the 40's, most of the prominent French design houses would do their own take on it, most of them being debut masculines for their respective houses, continuing into the mid-seventies until the chypre was finally thwarted by the more versatile fougère. In retrospect, Givenchy's debut male chypre feels closest to Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955), not because it is an attempt at duplication, but because it has the same mannered and measured structure. It wasn't the wild virility bombs of Moustache Rochas (1949) or YSL Pour Homme (1971), but neither was it as herbal or soft as Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) and Guerlain Habit Rouge (1965), respectively. Simply put, this scent is a careful balancing act in a bottle made possible by what must have been a fastidious amount of formulation by Givenchy.

Monsieur Givenchy would take lessons from both the the skank from the early Rochas entry and the petigrain-soothed restraint of the Chanel, sitting somewhere firmly between them in terms of masculinity and etiquette. The dry lavender and lemon show through as expected, with the oakmoss and sandalwood being less heavy than the Chanel, and a pang more of the civet , but still not a whole dollop of it like the Rochas, which makes this feel like a chypre compromise in a bottle. The whole thing is light, airy, aromatic, a bit mischievous in the civet usage, and definitely more of an enhancing scent than a dominant fragrance meant to mask all indiscretions, so it's easily layered with something else or worn on fabric for a longer citrus sustain. It's romantic in the French ballroom sort of way, and is the perfect aromatic citrus for the person who wants to experience the lowest common denominator between all the various varieties made around this period. It certainly isn't my favorite, but from an objective point of view, it does have a little bit of everything in equal amounts that typify what a masculine chypre was at the time, so for the person not wanting to spend a lot of cash tracking down all of these old kings of French design, it serves as the least risky entry point.

Another less-evident comparison would be to Avon's Tribute for men, a much more obscure offering that would also be a debut masculine (of sorts) and come several years after this. If Monsieur Givenchy was the median French chypre for European men or sophisticates elsewhere, then Tribute would become it's reverse-engineered American sibling, with the former's immaculate sense of balance spun off in favor of a more-downmarket approach that thrusts the citrus zest and woodsy warmth ahead. It's almost funny that in describing this scent, I've had to use so many comparisons. It really is like the Goldilocks of aromatic citrus scents: everything is "just right" and as a result it fails to have any unique characteristics outside of this averaging of notes. It's not quite a redundant addition as chypre fans will appreciate it's immaculate construction and subtlety whether or not they have more than one of the other selections this is most closely related to, and sometimes you just want something that is quality without quirkiness, fanciness without fussiness, and maybe that's what the makers of Monsieur Givenchy were on about all this time. The jack of all trades chypre, and master of none.
14th December, 2017

Pino Silvestre by Silvestre

A lot has been spoken on behalf of this scent, and several Italian friends tell me it's about as ubiquitous in their home country as Old Spice is in the US. That statement alone had me approach Pino Silvestri with some trepidation because anything that widespread is bound to be downmarketed into oblivion, with the personality of a Windex bottle. Luckily, this is not the case at all with Pino, and it's quite the shocker as it does not smell at all like it's name or packaging would have one believe. First thing's first about Pino Silvestri: the current IP holder of the fragrance (Mavive S.p.a)has probably done the most of the aforementioned speaking on behalf of this scent, and the current website/packaging for the scent treats the stuff like it's "Blood from the Golden Child" or something, which is kinda scary and funny at the same time. "The purest tears trickle onto the pine cones releasing the fresh scent of the pine needles intense and balmy fragrance" is but one hyperbolic snippet to be found on the box, and there's plenty more where it came from both there and on the website for the stuff. Let me tell ya, the actual product is nowhere near as mystifying as that, but I'm sure you've already guessed as much.

Pino Silvestri does indeed smell like pine, but not singularly, and not in a manner that reminds you of cleansers such as Pine-Sol, or the stuff you spray on artificial Christmas trees. Granted, pine is pine so you'd better like it if you're even thinking about trying this stuff, but built around that pine heart note is so much more. The stuff is almost built like a fougère but lacks some of the key notes to define it as such, and really makes me think of Penhaligon's Bleheim Bouquet or Avon's Windjammer in that it has a very strong peppery accord. Pino Silvestri does not actually contain any black pepper like those other two, but the combination of sage and geranium around the pine, plus the rather up-front bergamot, and cedarwood down in the base all just swirl into something peppery and bold anyway. The whole thing wears like a lovely alert and fresh scent for the man that needs all the boost he can get beyond his coffee to perk up, and although this completely murders any potential in the romance or evening wear department, it does make Pino Silvestri a very good shaving buddy and work scent. If you live in an area where pine is plentiful, like my Pacific Northwest home, this is almost a shoe-in scent for your collection, especially for the Trader Joe's and R.E.I.-shopping types that drive muddy Subarus and wear sandals in the winter.

Pino won't appeal to the folks who want sophistication, nor will it really be relevant to the fans of sweet or cool scents, as it's neither a club-hopping oriental/gourmand nor a sporty/blue gym scent. It is quite fresh, but a different kind of by-gone outdoorsy freshness that used to be how "bracing" sport scents of the 50's, 60's, and 70's were made, pretty much right up to the advent of the aquatic in the late 80's. Pino Silvestri has a huge line of other products to fill one's bathroom and shower stall, as this stuff is quite the institution in Italy as mentioned before, plus has the prerequisite flankers such a popular commercial scent would need to cast a wider net. It's a really brisk scent for the winter holidays, again due to it's pine construction, and might wear good in all other seasons save maybe the dead heat of summer, where it fails to really cool the senses, disappearing under high humidity instead. If you're a fan of pine and like the idea of a pine-laced day wear scent that won't really impress or offend, then this is a cheap thrill, but otherwise, it's not really much more than the sum of it's fairly simple parts. Oh by the way, you can't reuse the bottle as a Christmas ornament, sorry. Good stuff!
13th December, 2017

Givenchy Gentleman by Givenchy

Givenchy Gentleman is for exactly who's it's labelled: gentlemen. It's the uptown middle-manager to Guerlain Vetiver's front-line salesman, the sophisticated alternative to the wrung-hands Vetiver accords that were popular a decade or so before it's creation. It actually marries this vetiver accord with patchouli in it's heart, but the patchouli just slightly bumps it out of the way in terms of presence, making many consider this primarily a patchouli scent. It was the second great masculine Givenchy created after releasing Monsieur Givenchy at the tail-end of the 50's. Male chypres were all the rage in higher circles throughout the mid century, but were replaced by fougères as the mainstay of designer men's fragrance by the end of the 60's, undoubtedly as the mass-market cosmetic corps started taking bigger bites of the market once controlled by designers; Givenchy Gentleman however, was no chypre, nor was it a fougère. Just like the aforementioned Guerlain Vetiver, Givenchy Gentleman was built like a leather fragrance, and unlike Vetiver, actually contains a Russian leather note in the base, but to call this a leather scent is a huge injustice as in this context it's merely a dry-smelling fixative for what floats on top.

Givenchy Gentleman also contains civet, much like the chypres Givenchy was leaving behind with this truly abstract and unclassifiable scent. Tarragon and cinnamon open this up to your nose, and when it all falls into place like a finished puzzle, what you get is a warm semi-sweet opening that leads you into a green and smoky heart, then leaves you in a masculine base that's both virile and civilized, promising everything that a name like "Givenchy Gentleman" makes. It's a very European mindset of gentleman, not the 3-piece suit and luxury sedan mindset, but a more discreet chauffeured-via-saloon and dressed in his normal clothes kind of a gentleman, with a flower in the lapel. This scent sort of straddles the fence between timeless and period fragrance, because the loudly green middle and civet base definitely scream 1970's fashion, as everything at that time was super musky or mossy, but the vetiver and leather are just such treasured notes in the history of men's fragrance that they do battle with the rest of the scent to keep it relevant as a classic. Ultimately, how you feel about this will come down to your level of interest in fragrance as a hobby or most likely your age, since this is a very mature scent with not even a peep of sweetness or chemical oomph to push it over the sweaty din of a night club.

The name "Gentleman" would be reused by Givenchy in 2017 by itself for a fragrance, but they took care to place it before their name instead of after, to help people tell the two apart, and it is a completely different creature with a black label (as opposed to a silver one) that I won't discuss in depth here. It's not a flanker or a substitute to my knowledge, but it's not the first time Givenchy has recycled the name either, so beware. This one should directly read "Givenchy Gentleman" in that order on the box or it is not the same fragrance. This one also gets compared to Giorgio for Men quite a bit, and often unfairly because they both feature patchouli accords at their core, but Giorgio is much louder, sweeter, and more vulgar with it's typical 1980's chemical blast. Replace the vetiver with benzoin, add a bunch of honey on top, and turn a green garcon in a blazer into the Incredible Hulk in a leisure suit. Giorgio would definitely beat Givenchy in a drag race, but the Gentleman would certainly lose Giorgio in the twisty turns of European country roads in a full-on grand prix. Years ago this might have been romantic, but nowadays it's best for casual use or formal engagements.
12th December, 2017

British Sterling by Dana

British Sterling is a staple scent spoken in the same tone as English Leather or Old Spice, but ultimately classier than them due to the pedigree it once carried. It's interesting whisky flask bottle with the chrome-plated plastic collar had remained unchanged for over 50 years, outside of slight alterations in available sizes and the fanciness of the applied brand label. Sadly, it has fallen very far from this once pedigreed position, as it launched initially in jewelry stores where Speidel sold it's watches and watchbands, with slogans like "Make him a legend in his own time" and "so fine a gift, it's sold in jewelry stores" which lent itself to the perception Speidel already had with it's Twist-O-Flex line of metal wristbands and eventually whole watches. It was even possible to get the metal cap engraved with initials in the beginning, which is pretty cool.
Original Speidel-Textron production runs of British Sterling and the later MEM production pretty much has the same formula, and is the basis for this review.

British Sterling opens with citrus, floral, and green notes, unsurprising for a fougère from the sixties, but what is surprising about British Sterling is the shift away from powdery vanillic bases or heaps of lavender in the heart like most other "green" fougères from the period. Instead, British Sterling takes a more aromatic route, and thus sort of unintentionally acts like a precursor to all the aromatic fougères that would take over in the early 70's. It doesn't have the over-saturation of moss or woods that those scents contain, but it's definitely there. The scent quickly develops from this green opening to some uncharacteristic spices in the heart, stuff like nutmeg and cinnamon typically reserved for oriental fragrances or the much much later gourmands, before ending up in a typical dry down of amber, musk, moss, and sandalwood. There's probably a modicum of coumarin in here too, even if a strait-tonka accord is not detected. It's a fairly complex and round scent that really stood head and shoulders above others in it's class.I can easily see why this scent became so popular in it's halcyon days, and how it would eventually become so mass-market in succeeding decades. It's rich, smooth, slightly herbal, and very dapper compared to some contemporaries, and although it's not sensual enough for romantic duty, it's almost a year-round signature scent.

The original Speidel-Textron formula and the subsequent MEM version is somewhat outmoded in the 21st century for lacking any distinct "freshness" that typically defines an all-season day wear scent for men these days, and it particularly fails in hot weather, but otherwise it's truly of superior stock and rather unique for it's time. New British Sterling, as produced by Dana, has an entirely different vibe, despite having much the same opening structure.The new stuff has become quite shrill with the citrus/floral top dominating most of the scent's life. Whatever stands in for the moss and probably the woods too are also very ozonic, with the spicy heart dialed way down to quicken the transition and thin out the smell. This give the new stuff a chemical-burn personality that makes it better as aftershave than a day scent, since you never really get that smoothness, just lots of green with musk to hold it down amidst all the synthetics. It's not bad, but feels more like a new scent inspired by the original rather than a reformulation.
11th December, 2017 (last edited: 12th December, 2017)

Vetiver by Guerlain

Vetiver is a very common note in men's fragrance, and it's no surprise that it eventually got it's own mostly single-note dedicated creation. Guerlain was not the first to bring a Vetiver cologne or EDT to market, but they already had the years of expertise with selling vetiver extracts long before they composed a scent featuring the note that theirs is often considered the reference vetiver scent. The story goes that Jean-Paul Guerlain was tasked with making the scent as the company's first exclusively male scent since Mouchoir de Monsieur way back in 1902, since the Belle Epoch was long gone and men with Victorian sensibilities weren't really walking the earth. The modern mid-century man had a desire for fragrance that he hadn't possessed back then, and it wasn't just dandies or dignitaries wearing this stuff, so something unmistakably masculine was in order. It's really no surprise then that this scent was based on Jean-Paul's impression of a gardener kept by a family friend, fusing vetiver with tobacco in the base to make something rich and earthly, very salt-of-the-earth.

Vetiver in any vintage ends in roughly the same dry-down, but older versions do take a rounder more tree-bark route to the destination than newer formulations, which mostly place that smoky and grassy vetiver note front and center for much longer before reaching the tobacco at the bottom. Spend your money where you like I say, as all different vintages will get you besides a different bottle is a different path from top to bottom, with the oldest incarnations before 1988 actually being lighter since they were originally made at eau de cologne strength. Ultimately, you have to like grass and tobacco to dig this, there is literally no way around the vetiver, which itself is more smoky than green, and provides that quality in any number of scents containing it that you have already smelled. Guerlain sought to isolate that herbal smokiness and build a scent up around it, epitomizing the working man's smell in the process with tilled earth, verdant freshness, and the lingering ash of ground-in dirt.
The secret to making pleasant what must all sound unappealing by description was the use of citrus and spices to lift and zest up the hard-edged core notes.

The best way to describe this to somebody needing a comparison to another scent would be an aldehydic leather fragrance made without leather, or a tobacco scent like Tabac without any oriental sweetness or amber; vetiver is pleasant, verdant, fresh, but not light, airy, or soft like most green scents that toss in flowers or fruit somewhere for an approachable feel. Vetiver is a proper man's scent for the man that doesn't want to smell like he's going to a high society function, but still wants to be pleasant company, even if he's turning a wrench instead of the dial on his dress watch. Vetiver is the ultimate work scent as nobody would ever find it offensive, but neither is it in the least bit suggestive, unless somebody finds rugged no-nonsense masculinity attractive. It doesn't overbear or flash a ton of sex-driven animalic notes your way, as it doesn't have any, nor does it try to be gentle like the lavender-based fougeres or the lemony chypres making the rounds in the day of it's release. Pure vetiver is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of vibe, but if you want to smell it dressed up just a tad, this really is the fragrance for you that should come before any others bearing the name.
28th November, 2017 (last edited: 12th December, 2017)

Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon's

Penhaligon's of London is a beloved and time-honored name in the UK, yet in the world abroad, is little more than a niche perfumer with a rich backstory. It's to be expected, as they never grew into a multinational cosmetics conglomerate like America's Avon or France's Coty, and instead focused on serving their local clientele, among which included members of British royalty, earning them royal warrants that they still possess. This is all relevant to Blenheim Bouquet because it is with these warrants that the scent was created, originally as a bespoke fragrance commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough in 1902, it's official date of release. At some point, Winston Churchill himself began to wear it too, lending me to believe that it's sale became relaxed enough that royal affiliates could acquire it at very least until it was made publicly available. The same sort of bespoke-to-market story also follows a large portion of Creed scents, but they left the UK behind for Napoleon's courts long before Penhaligon's emerged with warrants, and maintained much more focus on a portfolio of elite clients than serving the public outright, so for them it's a more common tale to tell.

The 1900's also saw shift away from florals-for-everything, since Jicky set new standards for abstract perfumery, which directly translates to more diversity through experimentation. Bay rum was popular in the Americas and the staple "barbershop" style of fougere was also coming about in France, but this is really nothing like those. There's no tonka here, no moss, no ambergris of any kind in the base, with only six notes overall and no detectable heart notes. Blenheim Bouquet must have been a really specific and targeted creation based on what the Duke of Marlborough liked, because there really isn't anything else quite like it from any decade, outside of stuff perhaps drawing inspiration from it or trying to ape it's reputation. The scent almost starts like a classic unisex eau de cologne, but with both lemon and lime singing together alongside a blast of dry English lavender. From there, it's just pine, musk for a fixative, and a strong pepper note in the base. That's literally it, making Blenheim Bouquet seem like Lemon Pepper: The Fragrance, but really the beauty here is in the ratios of ingredients and blending.

Wearing Blenheim Bouquet is surprisingly easy even well over a century after it's creation, which is in stark contrast to The Hammam Bouquet and it's quite literal "Victorian Ponce in a Bottle" vibe. It's either a nod to the Duke's good taste or the skill of Penhaligon's, maybe a bit of both, that makes this so timeless. Yeah, it's a very dry composition that will make it hard to relate for trend-seeking fragrance users, since it doesn't have that chemical burn or roundness modern male scents possess, but it's so fresh and peppery that it's almost impossible to not like. The only thing that really compares to this is maybe Avon's Windjammer (1968) or Iceberg's Effusion for Him (2001) but I think that's just due to the black pepper in each. This a very green scent as well, the pine is very much in full effect alongside that much-sung pepper, so between the two, one almost gets a feel like this might have been a very early precursor to something like Pino Silvestri or Guerlain's Vetiver but more youthful than those (ironically). This makes a very good morning splash and after-shave fragrance, and I'm not sure why Mr. Churchill favored it, but for anyone today thinking of giving this centenarian a go, all they need know is that this stuff is quite literally a distillation of vigor in a bottle. Very pleasant and unique
27th November, 2017 (last edited: 12th December, 2017)

Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligon's

Hammam Bouquet is a pioneering cornerstone in the crafting of male-specific fragrance, at a time when everything was either a parfum meant for a lady, or a light cologne water meant for everyone. Granted, important men of noble courts had long since commissioned perfumers to make them bespoke scents, and that is ironically how Penhaligon's next masculine scent, Blenheim Bouquet, would come to pass (until it too saw sale to the public later on), but in the 1800's there was very little documented masculine-only fragrance outside of this and the works of Ed Pinaud (now Clubman Pinaud), making this very significant indeed. Regardless of who what when, 1872 was a very very different time for men than even 1972, let alone today, and all perfumers were arguably "niche" since everything was on a much smaller and more personal scale back then. The very first sample of this upon an unprepared nose will reveal an entirely different concept of what suited a man's sensibilities, which is to be expected, and is vastly different than pretty much anything made in the 20th or 21st century. For starters this is primarily a skanky rose scent, since the idea of abstract fragrance wouldn't come around until Guerlain's Jicky a decade or so later, and the skank was probably the only way to "man it up". Just to think that rose was seen as the best choice for a man's toilet water in 1872 regardless of who is the perfumer nose making it is just mind blowing to me. William Penhaligon made this scent in dedication to the Hammam down the street from his first shop, where he used to be a barber for the bathers coming and going.

He had other formula ideas before creating this, that the modern company has since brought to life, but my guess is this was something he whipped up to apply on his clients after a cut or shave based on his experiences with the Turkish bath (or Hammam) down the street from his first shop. This stuff isn't very "barbershop" compared to Pinaud and other things made closer to the turn of the 20th century, but it's the distinction of his early works that earned Penhaligon his royal warrants as perfumer. Hammam Bouquet is a hallmark of the thinking found in it's era of creation: florals up front, woods and/or animalics in the back, and herbals or more florals in the heart notes to muddle them up. The only thing making this a masculine scent is the aforementioned skank and lack of any real sweetness, which results in that urine-like sharpness which seeks to emulate male sweat. This skank is a characteristic many folks find off-putting or attracting, and was probably perfected in execution with YSL's Kouros a whopping 109 years later. In this pioneering Victorian-era rendition of the "acrid scent of male", rose orris is introduced with very dry lavender and then pushed way up front, then dried some more with cedar until the classic basenotes of sandalwood, musk and ambergris lay it down to rest. The whole thing just screams of a classic dandy with flowers in their 19th century sartorial attire (usually a frock or morning coat depending on what end of the era we're on), a top hat, cane, and a detached emotionless gaze judging you by the grace of your walk and manner of speech.

I find this scent enjoyable in much the same way one would appreciate a classic aria or a traditional continental dinner, but in no way shape or form is this appropriate for anything besides 19th century reenactments or maybe (and this is a long maybe), an extremely formal evening where the modern equivalent to the attire I mentioned would be worn. This stuff is just so stiff and archaic that there's absolutely nothing relaxed about it, which is part of what I find amusing when wearing it. Also be warned that the stuff doesn't scrub off skin or clothes easily, so when you wear it, you're in for the long haul. Hammam Bouquet is such a time capsule that it's the Victorian period piece of men's fragrance, the real deal that all the new-generation hipster-targeted products wish they were, and a stoic exercise in the perseverance of fragrance history preservation that it's almost required academia to wear it once if not own a bottle. For the full effect, I suggest a nice brandy and a copy of Wuthering Heights under arm when wearing this scent. Conversely, you can try wearing it outside if you absolutely want alarmed stares from everyone. Either way, it's a beautiful history lesson in a bottle that has about as much practical use as a vintage show car in the garage.
26th November, 2017 (last edited: 27th November, 2017)

Pour Un Homme by Caron

Pour un Homme is an oddity for the modern world, but back in 1934 it was cutting-edge masculinity in eau de toilettes for the guy ready to step out into the night. You have to understand that men wanting to smell good had few options outside of English barbershop tropes, bay rum, or eau de colognes which were the go-to for over century. Guerlain and D'orsay made strides in France with early 20th century efforts, but that was pretty much it outside of the new American aftershaves or what the British were doing (Alfred Dunhill also launched this year). Pour un Homme took the already-popular lavender accord that guys enjoyed and gussied it up with some richness reserved for femme fragrances at the time, which was rather controversial since guys wore lighter stuff and women wore spicier scents, a dynamic that would hilariously reverse itself by the 1970's. This fresh-meets-decadent mixture still baffles people to this day, but more so because the combination of lavender and vanilla are more ossociated with deodorizer than personal fragrance.

All that lush and florid lavender isn't alone up there in the opening, and has a supporting cast of rosemary, bergamot, and lemon that you'll barely notice. The woods and florals middle section is nearly a connective tissue to deliver the top into a bed of musky vanilla, with also-imperceptible moss and tonka as anchors. I kind of liken Alfred Dunhill to a 30's jazz lounge due to it's earthy honey and leather, recalling cigar smoke, so Pour un Homme would definitely be the fancy uptown opera house with it's expensive champagne and finger food served by butlers between shows. This day and age proves lavender and vanilla to be calming aroma therapy, so this can pull double-duty as stress relief on a busy day. Who knew back in 1934! Wearing this as a day-long scent in the 21st century will yield similarly disparate results: folks unfamiliar with lavender (or fragrance) will assume you applied some Frebreeze or AirWick in desperation, while others slightly savvier will lavish you with compliments on how nice you smell. This one has also unintentionally moved towards unisex due to the now-universal appeal of lavender, even if it's title ostensibly advertises that it's "For a Man by Caron" (loose translation).

Overall, Ernest Daltroff (founder and initial perfumer for the house of Caron) was doing something he probably felt was safe from a perfumer's standpoint, since European guys often wore just strait-lavender unisex fragrances in those days (like Atkinson's or the sadly long-gone Yardley's that only lives on in soap form), but upon completion proved to be far more gender-neutral than he anticipated. To the modern nose this can only be a good thing, as the more people who can enjoy a product the better, plus the sexual liberation and togetherness implied by a unisex fragrance is always welcome in a new age of gender identities and self-discovery (at least in the western world) that's been a long time coming. Older and less open-minded guys used to say this stuff is the "providence of dandies, whoopsies and the like", which maybe they were right, but for somebody like me, makes this more attractive rather than something to steer clear of, since my tastes in romance partners also does not abide clear-cut lines either, but I digress. Simply put, if you love lavender and vanilla, this is for you, period.
25th November, 2017

Skin Bracer by Mennen

Just as a warning, I rate this highly for what it is, an after shave, and not as a makeshift scent, even though the scent is likeable. I see a lot of people try and review this as a scent, and Mennen themselves even tried desperately to market it as a scent in the cologne boom of the 60's and 70's (with hilariously sexual ads to boot), but this one is simply form follows function. 20th century pre-war men's toiletries were mostly limited to the unisex eau de colognes of the last century, unless you happened to live in London or France and had access to shave shop scent makers like Penhaligon's or Ed Pinaud. The UK seemed to be most on top of catering to men with the illustrious Creed and Geo F Trumper joining the aforementioned Penhaligon's, while France had Guerlain and D'Orsay to throw guys a bone now and then, but America had nothing really besides bay rum. There also weren't many notable American-based perfumers either outside of the door-to-door California Perfume Company (later to become Avon) to offer American men anything to replace that bay rum, and they just made their own version! Taking this all into consideration, it's easy to see why Skin Bracer would become such a big deal, alongside it's rival William's Aqua Velva Ice Blue.

It's easy to see that in lieu of any proper fragrance options that American guys would double-down on their after shaves, and this trend persisted (with help from the aforementioned marketing) until the market caught up, and it was the availability of Skin Bracer as a new then-modern option for men's grooming toiletries that probably made it so successful, even if it does exist as an exercise in purpose first, cosmetic appeal second. Mennen simply took what is more or less a soapier take on the European barbershop fougere and added copious amounts of menthol to act as a face soother after a wet shave, it's really just as simple as that. The expected burn of aftershave dissipates in only a few seconds, and is replaced by a few minutes of skin-soothing numbness, with that cold menthol smell weaving in and out of the fougere composition. It's a very invigorating scent despite it's age, which lends to it's continued popularity, although recent versions have dialed back both the menthol and the scent, using a little more modern chemistry to sooth the skin. I think the huge menthol blast is the biggest characteristic of this stuff, so I still go after vintage.

Skin Bracer succeeds as it has done for 80+ years as an after shave soother. Many other splashes, lotions, and cremes have both come and gone in this time, but for but a few plunks in the bucket, you can make this your best bathroom cabinet companion. As a scent? Yeah it's pleasant in that medicine cabinet meets drugstore perfume selection sort of way, but despite what vintage ads tell you, "she" will not fall for you if you manage to douse yourself in enough of this stuff to make a day wear scent out of it (might want to invest in gallons of it too by that same token). All of it's myriad flankers are also gone, and they had the same general sillage and projection anyway, so unless you need more variety in your after shave, I'd not bother hunting down old stock of them and just stick with this one. Skin Bracer truly does as it's name states, and it's important from a fragrance perspective only because it was among the first of a new wave of choices for men, particularly American men, who didn't have easy access to much else. I dare you to find a more effective removal of the shaving sting.
24th November, 2017

Habit Rouge by Guerlain

Habit Rouge is one of two 60's siblings that Guerlain unleashed to make it's stake in the then-burgeoning world of men's fragrance. It succeeded Guerlain Vetiver by about 4 years, and arrived just in time to compete with the other French chypres that had been making the rounds. This was a time when male fougeres were still seen as pedestrian (with the exception of maybe Canoe), and the finer French houses serving the uppity clientele still focused on mostly traditional affairs, which explains much of what Rochas, Givenchy, and Chanel had been doing with their debut male scents. Guerlain had gotten the jump on all of them years ago when they released Mouchoir de Monsieur, which was for all intents and purposes a male Jicky made for the man's handkerchief. Habit Rouge then wasn't the first or even the second masculine EDT the house had made, but realistically the third. They kinda didn't need to do another chypre like this but I guess they had to get the point across that they could since Mouchoir de Monsieur was becoming dated after 60+ years. It's hard to say exactly where this falls in line with the other aforementioned mid-century French masculines, since it smells like a time apart despite being what was then a more modern approach, but maybe that's it's purpose since Guerlain doesn't like to perceive the passage of time the way the rest of the perfume world does.

For starters, Habit Rouge has that same waxy and oily ambiance that a lot of it's antique forerunners possess, and this gives it a strange quality akin to the smell of citrus and herb essential oils used for baking. Maybe the rumored "guerlinade" note cocktail that supposedly exists in all Guerlain creations is to blame for this vintage feel, because it does share that commonality with Guerlain Vetiver. I liken the drydown of this to the smell of a specific kind of citrus and bergamot-infused fruit and cheese pie an Italian friend of mine bakes and mails me from across an ocean; it's an interesting association I know, but for those who know what kind of European pastry I'm on about, you won't be able to "unsmell" it once you whiff Habit Rouge. Outside of this accord, it is a typical citrus and animalic chypre from this period: very light and fresh opening with some indiscernible skank undertow that fades on skin, and a warm herbal and amber base. What separates Habit Rouge from other mid-century chypre efforts is it's "kitchen sink" construction: it has everything from vanilla, moss, leather and benzoin to patchouli, rose, sandal, basil, and even oddities like rosewood or pimento. Leave it to such an old-school French house to make a huge melange of notes that must be blended in impossibly specific ratios to conjure this scent, but it results in a light and sweet de-fanged chypre that could only do harm by being too easy-going, which is why a lot of folks leave this to older gentlemen. Habit Rouge, despite it's best advertising efforts to the contrary (still going right up until 2014), is anything but aggressive. Folks in my experience who find stuff like this loud or up-front have usually just never experienced chypres and are used to the synthesized placidity of modern aquatics, because this is softness in a bottle.

Is this classic? Absolutely. Is it essential? Well if you love traditional French perfumery I'd say yes, as most of them even in the 60's had already started becoming more experimental and this was sort of the last of the old guard to hit the street, with Dior's decidedly more timeless Eau Sauvage being the final exclamation point on the whole genre. Otherwise, I'd say no. You can pick any citrus chypre, even the three-note-wonder of YSL's late-coming Pour Homme and get the same point across, it's just all in the angle of attack with these. Habit Rouge comes across as the most mystifying and complex of the lot for sure, and the least potentially offensive one still containing an animal note, but ultimately becomes a slave to it's design; it's so florid in composure that it's only appropriate for holiday dinners, formal occasions, or for that guy that just loves the old "dandy" style masculines that died when chest hair became in vogue. It's oddly more at home in the time period of the aforementioned Mouchoir de Monsieur than the swinging 60's, but if you were gonna have just one classic Guerlain masculine and it -could not be- Vetiver, this stuff is a good choice.
23rd November, 2017 (last edited: 27th November, 2017)
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Kanøn by Kanon

Kanøn would be something of an anomaly in 1966. This Scandinavian-wrought masculine scent was very much not in tune with what the French design houses or UK barbershop perfumers were making for guys at this time. It wasn't really a citrus/animalic chypre and it wasn't a powdery lavender and vanilla bomb like a lot of popular "far east" fougeres making their rounds at this time (yes, I'm looking at you two, Jade East and Hai Karate). Instead, the folks from the land of ice and snow bequeathed us an early framework of the scent combination that Yves Saint Laurent would later strip down to it's barest essentials and use for the legendary Kouros. Both fragrances would focus on a bergamot top, a floral middle (muguet for Kanøn, jasmine for Kouros), and a mossy bottom with amber in the mix. The only difference here is the blending and complexity. Kanøn clearly has 2 or 3 times as many notes overall as most scents from the period, save maybe Aramis or Brut, and is much more generalist in nature than a lot of stuff from this time as well.

Kanøn is a woodsy floral scent with a moss base that goes for something manly and relatively complex, it is dry, with only a slight semi-sweet aura, and the same sort of trashy funk opening that screams "I am a male" that Kouros shares. The ride down into the moss base is a bit warmer and smoother than Kouros, but not as clearly masculine, as if the makers of Kanøn wanted to imply virility but surround it in that trademark Scandinavian brevity and modesty. It's less of a dripping, sweaty body rippled with muscle like Kouros and more of a strong, unshaven lumberjack body wrapped in wool and holding a smoke pipe whilst sitting next to a well-kept fireplace. This scent has enough man funk to be clearly what it aims to be (original box markings didn't call it for men, but "man's cologne"), but it comes off a little more welcoming, world-wise, and resolute. People were still wearing a lot of super-sweet vanillic barbershop scents at this time, and the aforementioned citrus/animalic chypres were still making their rounds in high-end circles, plus this stuff also launched the same year as Christian Dior's legendary Eau Sauvage. Keep all that in mind when you take a whiff of Kanøn.

There wasn't much really like it on the market at the time, and it's "from Scandinavia" angle was also probably a seller, because guys are suckers for exotica if it attracts a date, so this stuff did well. It's been bought and sold, and sold again, changing manufacturers from it's homeland, to mainland Europe, to Canada, and eventually the US. The scent has admittedly grown weaker, so the number of sprays will need increasing depending on what vintage you have, but the drydown is the same, minus a bit of moss in the post-2011 versions. It's hit prices under $10 from discounters so it's not a risky blind-buy, but if you're not a fan of the manly ambergris/moss and dry woods/floral this scent has to offer, you might want to stay away. If Kouros is a sharp-dressed man peeling off his suit to hit the gym, then Kanøn is his burly Swedish uncle coming in from the cold after hefting a cord of wood. I highly recommend this as a work-friendlier scent for the guy that loves a "man's man" scent, but doesn't want to completely steal all the attention in the room.
20th November, 2017

Dunhill for Men by Dunhill

Modern Dunhill is a pretty mixed bag in quality and originality, taking on some of the design choices American mid-line fragrance makers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren have done; they are effectively the latter for the British male audience, with all but a few smash hits like the Desire series remaining in the background elsewhere in the fragrance world. It was a different world however, in 1934 when this beast first hit shelves. Brits seem to have a distinction of forming fragrance design houses starting with or centered primarily around males (Creed and Penhaligon's being earlier examples), so it's almost expected that Alfred Dunhill, who started as a leather maker and tobacconist, would launch into fragrance with a male scent. Please keep in mind that in the 1930's, fragrance for men was still very much drawing from Victorian-era barbershop traditions when it wasn't aping Bay Rum or old-world unisex eau de cologne and just slapping a "for men" on the bottle, which is why there is so little genuine male fragrances documented from that era. Even tried-and-true modern shaving favorites like Aqua Velva and Skin Bracer didn't even show up until this decade. Things outside shaving juice were starting to heat up though, with Caron launching it's debut masculine the same year as this, plus Canoe and Old Spice both launching in 36' and 37' respectively.

Alfred Dunhill didn't design this himself either, and the entire affair was orchestrated by his perfumer sister Mary Dunhill, who knew far better what to do in this field than him. The results of her efforts here created one of the most timeless, classic, yet oddly unsung early examples of the craft. Lemon, Clary Sage, Petitgrain, Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, Orris, Carnation, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Tonka, and Leather: the list reads top-to-bottom like a classic chicken noodle recipe of male scent craft, but back when this was new, it was very forward-thinking and probably referential for later perfumers when making their first masculines. You could easily trace any number classic male scents back to this: English Leather, Aramis, and Black Suede just to name a few, and I'd dare say this is almost a Tabarome for the masses, where one doesn't need a royal appointment or few months worth of rent to snag a bottle. I'd also call this a chypre as I don't believe it has enough freshness in it's composition to get the fougere stamp, even though it contains some staple fougere ingredients, but whatever it is, this stuff screams class. It opens with a sharp honeyed lemon and immediately dissipates to a warm bouquet of florals that almost seem like an approximation of orange blossom when combined, and as it dries down, the cedarwood, vetiver, and that unmistakable leather note hold it to your skin or clothes for the duration. It's a smell strait out of a film noir romance scene, one of pencil-thin mustaches, cigarette holders, and transatlantic accents drawing out the vowels like one's lower jaw is locked up.

It's a bit of William Powell and Orson Wells mixed with some James Cagney swank, and it works really well for the guy that prefers fedora to a trilby, and takes his scotch neat and not on the rocks. Alfred Dunhill is a fragrance to be sprayed on a pocket handkerchief or calling card, and instantly makes you feel like you're a wolf among sheep, stepping out of a hand-built automobile in looks for a smoky jazz lounge to spend a relaxing evening after a day spent shaking down the tenants and playing the stocks with their cash. It's admittedly a man's man scent, and not in the least bit romantic, but this is to be said of many classic British male fragrances, and the overall aesthetic is to let thy presence be felt, but otherwise do no convincing of character or disposition. Stiff and rigidly male almost to a fault, yet warm and empowering, this is quite literally the pre-WWII man-about-town in a bottle, and it's so old now (over 84 years) that there really isn't enough folks left to peg this on you as an "old man's scent". What's better, is if you're anywhere BUT in the UK, nobody will really know what you're on about if you describe what you're wearing to them if asked, inadvertently giving this niche/hipster cred to boot!
16th November, 2017

Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

There isn't a whole lot that can be said about Eau Sauvage that hasn't already been, and the general consensus (with which I agree) is that it's a masterpiece, but I will give it my grand review nonetheless. The famed Mr. Roudnitzka would only make 3 masculines in his time as a perfumer, and this is the only one still being produced, if that's any indication of it's timeless power. The first masculine created by the famed perfumer (Moustache Rochas)was more or less an early blueprint for the "dirty citrus" variant of the male chypre, but the virile animalic potency of that scent wasn't for everyone, despite it's light dusting of citrus and lavender on top to keep it fresh. Eau Sauvage seems to be it's successor, but this time Roudnitzka would go it without the help of his wife, and the resultant creation was ironically more feminine, or at least more gender-neutral. Eau Sauvage would also prove to be the first male scent for designer Christian Dior, with a whole story behind it's naming, and the whole thing was just a big deal all around. I never knew any of this going in of course, but it's fun learning later that "Eau Sauvage" not only means "Wild Water" in French, but was a corrupting of "Oui Sauvage", the way in which Christian Dior's butler addressed his friend Percy Savage when he came to visit the designer's home. Just lovely bits of character that make the scent that much sweeter!

The formula of this couldn't really be simpler, which is it's beauty to be honest. It's classified as a chypre, but it doesn't really contain the prerequisite animalic base notes, but we give that a slide since literally everything else is textbook chypre. It opens with lemon and rosemary, and that's it. No lavender, bergamot, or any of those other then-popular chypre accords fighting for space. After the lemon and rosemary greet you, petitgrain comes up to say hello in the middle, and after it dries, the textbook mossy vetiver holds your hand for the rest of the experience. That's it! No fuss, no muss, no musks or ambers to sour or sweeten the mix, just heaps of fresh, green sophistication through a use of just 6 primary vegetable notes. There is a drawback to this purely herbal composition, and that is the scent has pretty mediocre projection like a typical Avon/Mary Kay or department store fragrance under $30USD; it's totally okay if you want something that requires folks to come a little closer to enjoy your aura, but for the projection-means-better guys, this one won't do. Eau Sauvage does have pretty mean longevity though, and it should for the price: this one still goes between $60-$90USD even after being over 50 years old! It's a testament to it's desirability and staying power I suppose, and Dior has spun off a half-dozen flankers including 2 parfum formulations, an "extreme", and "extreme intense" and now one just called "Sauvage" (a modern reboot but not a replacement), all of which sit alongside the eponymous original.

Most people who smell Eau Sauvage now for the first time aren't even aware of it's age, since it's fresh, semi-sweet, and green tones just make it so classy and timeless. There is a certain degree of person who won't like stuff such as this because it doesn't have any richness to it, or chemical oomph of modern scents; I have heard some people liken this to a middle-aged man's contemporary scent, in that you have to be over a certain age to pull it off, but once you reach that age (regardless of when you were spawned), it will instantly be your signature scent. There is truth in these words to some degree, as I probably would not have appreciated something this dapper and soft in my early 20's as I do now, despite it's "wild" nomenclature. If nothing else, this joins the ranks of scents like Caron Pour Un Homme, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Monsieur Givenchy, Kouros, Eternity for Men, Acqua di Gio, and other time-worn men's classics that should be experienced, if not owned, at some point in a guy's lifespan. The scent works in all seasons, and for nearly all occasions, all times of day, and is literally so well balanced, it could be my one-and-only desert island fragrance if I had to reduce everything I owned down to one selection. If the art of the male chypre had an apex point, it would be this scent, and it's no wonder fougeres overtook these scents a decade or so after this. Where else was there left to go after Eau Sauvage? That's a question still waiting for an answer 50+ years later.
13th November, 2017

Weekend by Avon

It's difficult to say exactly what the vibe of Avon Weekend is. Avon had been pretty consistent with their masculine offering throughout the 70's, making some scents that were conventional but quality additions to tropes new and old, alongside some truly distinctive scents that were remarkably forward-thinking or unique for their time. Nothing Avon made was totally cutting-edge, but I have a feeling they never invested that kind of R&D budget in their masculines anyway, as it wasn't the bulk of their business, and still isn't. Weekend comes across to me like a re-purposing of traditional barbershop ingredients for something brisker, more bracing, and less complicated than some of their previous fare, targeting the "fragrance as utility" crowd of no-nonsense guys not into fashion outside of the clearance rack at Penny's. It's got that Mennen vibe, but unlike the later Rugger, doesn't try to blend it with some oriental spice warmth into something that has one foot in and one foot out of fine fragrance. Instead, I think Avon quite literally just wanted a casual drugstore scent for the weekend, and made this just about smell as casual and uncomplicated as it's name suggests. It's not terribly unique, memorable, or high quality, but it certainly informs of the more downmarket aesthetic direction they would try to take in the 80's with their own Avon-branded products while snapping up designers like Giorgio Beverly Hills, or partnering with designers like Louis Feraud, to cast a wider customer net.

Weekend's emerald green bottle and wooden cap sort of put it right into that medicine chest comfort zone of English Leather, vintage Kanon cologne, and the like. The scent is clearly classic fougere, but this time it's a bit fresher and lighter than previous efforts such as Wild Country or Tai Winds. It's a bit of Skin Bracer in that cool mentholated chill, but also has the lavender and something bitter green like sage in the top notes, which is where the Mennen vibe comes in strongest, before drying down to something sweet with a hint of cloves, a tiny bit warm, and totally like the characteristic powdery amber finishes Avon was known for around this time. Weekend seemed to be more popular as an after shave than as a cologne, as the latter is quite rare and you can find surviving after shave 10 to 1 over the cologne. This makes a ton of sense considering the popularity of these products as toiletries (and not stand-alone fragrance) at the time, and with such a pedestrian smell, I don't see myself wearing this on weekends outside of those spent at home. Because the spicy smooth oriental (and much better) Trazarra also released this year, I'd stick with that if you must have a late 70's Avon item in your collection, unless you really just need a drugstore scent that isn't at a drugstore anymore.
I'm not sure what Avon was thinking when they concocted this, but while the 60's and most of the 70's where halcyon days for their masculine fragrance lines, it's not a long stretch to see them getting too confident and slapping their name on just about anything they thought would sell.

I shouldn't be too surprised, since they did pass off a bottle of liquid compost leaves as Excalibur cologne back in 1969, so maybe this too was just one of those really really B-list ideas that somebody in marketing wouldn't shut up about until it got a green light. It's funny how these things always come late in the decade they're in. Like Avon runs out of good ideas halway through a decade and just starts spitting out whatever's left until they get another gust of inspiration. It's not bad, but there's a lot of drugstore shlock out there just like this swimming around, so seeing Avon try to entangle itself in this market is puzzling. Again, it's crisp, a little refreshing, and a pretty casual barbershop scent; it will never steer you wrong for a day on the back porch, but with so many options back then (and now) not requiring an Avon representative to acquire them, this just seemed doomed to obscurity from the start. You just can't make a scent like this and -not- sell it brick-and-mortar, it's just not gonna work. I do give this enough bonus points for cool packaging to avoid something lower than a neutral rating, but considering the difficulty in finding this, and the overwhelmingly mediocre and generalist nature of it, I'd say it's for serious collectors only. I stand behind this as aftershave, but not as a cologne.
12th November, 2017

Dunhill Edition by Dunhill

Dunhill is essentially to London gentlemen what a label like Ralph Lauren would be to us American guys, Armani to the Italians, Hermes to the French, so on and so forth. Alfred Dunhill had already made his claim with leather goods long before his sister Mary devised his first scent in 1934, but after decades of inactivity and a trio of forgotten, discontinued scents in the 70's (all of which were more or less following standard aromatic or oriental tropes of the day), Dunhill came back into the fore for the 1980's to reaffirm it's place as a maker of fine gentleman's fragrance. Dunhill Edition would be the name of it's newest creation and against all odds, it would be an abstract chypre in a time when chemically-augmented fougeres, orientals, and aromatic/floral "powerhouses" were making the rounds. It's a true showing of English class in much the same way the original Alfred Dunhill for men is, but with what was then a more modern sensibility with the ingredients and blending.

What I find most interesting about Edition is it was poised, classy, restrained, and structured at a time when bigger, louder, sharper, and sweeter were all the rage. Giorgio Beverly Hills had also released it's iconoclast of a men's fragrance at the time, but this is far more complex, subtle, and civilized than that similarly green beast. Dunhill Edition also seemed to be a huge stem of inspiration to Avon a decade or so later when it started pumping out similarly herbal chypres to try and relocate it's relevance with the fragrance-buying male public, but those have half as many notes and to say they're anything close to this outside of style is laughable. Edition is effectively an 80's Aston Martin where the original Dunhill was a nice polished 30's Rolls Royce. Edition is more concerned with speed and chic factor over comfort and decorum, but both are cut from the same aristocratic cloth. Simply because this is NOT a powerhouse, it's instantly a world apart from it's 80's contemporaries, and infinitely more timeless, which is another quality it apparently inherits from the debut Dunhill fragrance. It's a perfect scent for dress casual and all but the most formal of occasions, plus makes a great office or day-running scent as well. It's anything but romantic, as most older Dunhill scents still available have that typically sexless UK sense of aristocratic masculinity; power through patriarchy rather than physical prowess and staring down the bridge of one's own nose.

The opener only gently whiffs of most notes outside the dominant sage, with lemon and lavender just taking a peek before going away. The heart of clove and muguet is merely a vehicle to expedite one down to the very rare combination of both cedar and sandalwood; these are both very characteristic and disparate aromatic woods that on their own can dominate a scent, but to have them sing in harmony as the base of this scent is sheer audacious genius, especially when combined with the sage and cloves riding on top the whole way. It's a dry, semi-sweet expression of woods, herbs, and some slight florals that literally nobody else was really messing with in the 80's, and nobody again would try until nearly 20 years later. This is certainly not iconic in the way many other 80's scents are, but that's why it's cool. It's the discreet scent that works in the background. It doesn't need flashy duds or bright sports cars like everyone else in the 80's: It knows where it comes from and it's own net worth, and anyone coming home with Edition will learn that the loudest voices in the club are also often not the most charming, and it's genteel nature puts it in a league all it's own, just like it's namesake.
09th November, 2017

Gold by Jay Z

I kinda get the feeling here that Jay-Z was a fan of Paco Rabanne 1 Million when he commissioned his signature fragrance from Parlux Fragrances LLC (maker of many licensed designer and celebrity-branded scents). That's not to say this intends to be a direct copy of 1 Million, but much like an Avon or more modern Coty scent, it tries to be in the ballpark of something prolific and trending. You can even tell right down to the packaging and name of this scent that it pays homage to 1 Million by the mere fact that it's called "Gold", since 1 Million is housed in a container that looks like a gold bullion bar. Gold by Jay Z seems to mix elements of other designer packaging as well, since it has opaque matte white glass just like Kouros and a sleek slide-on cap like a Gucci fragrance. If nothing else, Jay Z wears his fashion inspirations on his sleeve with this. I don't know how much hands-on time the big-name rapper had with this scent, but at very least this is several cuts above the usual celebrity cash-in that the aforementioned Avon or EA Fragrances would issue, as this isn't just a "Scent du Jour" with a random actor's name slapped on the bottle. Knowing what I do about Jay Z, this clearly smells like something he would step up and ask for, and being as he's like several other big-name hip hop moguls that actively seek branching out into fashion, it's doubtful his agent just brought him a form to sign after smelling this (like Billie Dee Williams and his "Undeniable").

Regardless of how the genesis of this scent was born, it's clear that Jay Z wanted somebody who knew what they were doing to craft it, as it was made by Ilias Ermenidas, a perfumer who made the debut scent of Byblos, plus worked with Lancôme, YSL, Escada, Oscar de Laurenta, Avon, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, and tons more. It's clear that Mr. Ermenidas' resume leans much more heavily towards fruity scents, and feminine ones at that, but perhaps that was what got him the job since creating something to compete with 1 Million would imply heavy reliance on sweet accords. Gold is clearly a gourmand with all it's fruit, spice, and vanilla, which was all the rage when 1 Million hit the scene, but this category was starting to lose wind to the Oud craze around Gold's release date. I guess it kind of goes without saying that celebrity scents of any caliber rarely do more than display the tastes of their nameplate owners at best, which is all fine and well since most celebrities are ultimately consumers like the rest of us, just with more influence. Jay Z Gold takes a might brighter and sweeter direction than it's biggest point of reference, which makes it distinct enough to avoid comparisons by all but the most astute noses, which is a merit in itself. For those who've never smelled 1 Million, a bit more description of Jay Z Gold is needed.

The scent lays on a bed of amber, patchouli, and precious wood (teak in Gold's case), which is a nearly-identical basenote structure to 1 Million save the addition of bourbon vanilla which makes Gold sweeter from the start. From there, the heart notes of Gold stand apart from 1 Million by being drier and more vibrant, with violet, vetiver, cypress, lavender and pepper being the standout notes. Gold is the more complex scent of the two, which is admirable, but once we ascend up to the main top notes of ginger, grapefruit, and the odd blueberry, we see that this is not the sultry clubber's juice of Paco Rabanne, but something far too sweet and buttoned down to do more than carry a drink and do a two-step. At the end of the day, Jay Z seems to be going for more versatility here, with a signature fragrance that pulls both daytime and nighttime duty, and something that conveys opulent champagne tastes of the successful hip hop crowd in a context that's safe for the office or studio in any case. There's also the point of making this more accessible to Jay Z's fans, who might not be able to spring close to $80 for Paco but can swing the $30 mid-range department store prices this commands (and where it can be found).

It's one of few celebrity frags for men that from start-to-finish feels like an earnest attempt at scent craft from the celebrity on the bottle, and created with pedigreed perfumers to ensure authenticity. I don't get invested in too many of these, but with a tester handy, I was convinced and took this one home, with my only complaint being it's cologne-strength longevity despite otherwise being a monster in silliage. Stick to median temps for this, and avoid strictly formal occasions, as it's too soft and friendly for anything calling for a suit and tie.
07th November, 2017

Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent

Kouros is such a watershed fragrance, it's on the lips of almost everyone I come across that knows more than two cents worth about masculine fragrance. It's right up there in mythic must-haves alongside Azzaro Pour Homme, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Eau Sauvage, and the like. It constantly makes top personal lists all over, and is still a best seller for the label nearly 4 decades on. I must say that so much heaping praise does tend to make me shy away a bit from a scent, not because I hate mainstream popularity, but just because some products (not just fragrance) take on a cult-like sense of value that can sometimes mean folks convince themselves it's good since everyone around them says so; I'm glad however, to report that definitely is not the case here. Yves Saint Laurent had always been known for making provocative fashions, and it's no surprise that the scents he oversaw were equally so. His first pour homme (which many still swear by) holds nearly as much mythos as this scent, but with Kouros, it seems he made his real mark with scent-wearing guys.

The advertisements for this were equally as prolific as the scent itself would become over time, and it all factors in to why I avoided this one for so long. I literally just saw it everywhere (although to be fair, haven't seen it in a major department store in a few years). My formal introduction to it was a full unused and vintage 1.6 oz spray of it found for just $3 at a rummage shop that sells off belongings from estate odd lots, so perhaps even better for me as I can objectively experience it in it's originally intended state, and not anything reformulated. A lot of talk here is had of this scent feeling like urine cakes, cat spraying, and other unsavory things in the opening, but as a staunch fan of stuff like Moustache Rochas myself, that didn't really scare me one bit. Horrifying top notes are usually a prelude to something very special in the dry-down, or so I've noticed with older scents, and it's almost a rite of passage to survive them in order to smell the true quality of what you just doused on yourself. This very urine-inflected opening lasts all of maybe a minute or two on the skin, perhaps five on clothing, before revealing it's true nature. The very simple and elegant jasmine, clove, ambergris and moss come out to play the longest and the coriander, bergamot and artemisia stated to be in the opening probably responsible for this "cat pee" opening are just here for conveyance.

The intent of Kouros seemed to be uncompromisingly masculine without the use of heavy musks or tons of patchouli/sandalwood/tonka mish-mashes like the old guard from a decade back. YSL was undoubtedly out to summarize "male" in the most concise way possible with this one, as it smells almost like what a fragrance made to capture the more pleasant aspects of a man's natural skin scent would be, or approximate it without actual sweat being added. It's one of the few scents with that "sweaty" aspect that I actually enjoy, as most others try to scream "active lifestyle" and dress that perspiration tang they synthesize with a bunch of aquatic notes into something that's just above armpit-covered-in-speed-stick aroma. I don't care what your sexual orientation or preferences are here, if you at all enjoy the smell of a guy (or being a guy) in his natural hygienic state, you would undoubtedly love this fragrance as it cleans up and adds to it without completely covering it up. If you're more of a "mask it" kind of person rather than somebody who likes body chemistry, you'll want to stick to your aquas and your spices, since this won't work in place of actual bathing. Kouros pulls no punches in it's delivery of "Epitomizing the ultimate in man" as the old adverts used to say, and it's really as simple as that. Now I understand what everyone is on about with this stuff. I must say it isn't an everyday wear or something to hit the clubs with (at least anymore), but in controlled application, it's a great day scent in spring or fall, and can't do you wrong in casual or dress casual environments. Does it live up to the hype? Well no, but nothing ever does. Amazing nonetheless!
06th November, 2017

Hervé Léger Homme by Hervé Léger

Hervé Léger was one of a second wave of outside designers to partner with Avon during a product line renaissance the company undertook in the 2000's when their first female (and so far only female) CEO Andrea Jung was at the helm. She helped push them out of the muck they dragged themselves into in the 80's and 90's with generic smell-alike scents and lackluster makeup, but sadly the boon period was almost over as it ultimately cost the company more money that it earned them, even if their international footprint grew at the cost of their atrophied home market (the US). When Mr. Léger first had his name slapped on a pair of perfumes, they were sold primarily through Proctor and Gamble, but Avon is arguably just a bit upmarket than that drugstore giant of a brand, so I can see the upgrade potential they proposed. Hervé Léger also made a "his and hers" this time around, which would be the first and so far only masculine scent designed by the fashion brand. I don't know how well this did but it seems to get glowing reviews most places (which is a rarity for Avon regardless of who the perfumer nose is behind the scent), so I guess it was a success.

Hervé Léger's debut masculine is sweet, smoky, woodsy, with an interesting ginger note in the opening like the kind used by Avon's own "Signature" from a few years before, but unlike that fragrance, Hervé Léger Homme is much darker and avoids the gourmand tag by being much heavier on woods, which smell like a melange of pine and cedar. This scent isn't quite "Oud Dark", and that's mostly thanks to the aforementioned ginger, the yuzu that's blended too far down to notice on it's own here, and the old Avon standby amber base. I swear, it doesn't matter who makes what for Avon, all of their best scents seem to have heaps of amber in the base, as if Avon only lets amber be a part of something they know will turn out well, or just insists that it's in everything not a fresh fougere. Hervé Léger probably knew the source of Avon's power lies in their use of amber, especially with masculines, and hence it's here in full force. What you end up with is a modern aromatic that really pays close homage to the mid-century Revlon and Shulton scents, and does so wonderfully. I love this bridges between past and present. They don't happen often, but when they do, great things abound.

I wouldn't say this is romantic and seductive as the box describes, unless one is easily seduced by classic masculine scent tropes or images of mature men in conservative apparel driving their well-maintained classic town cars to the steakhouse on the weekends. The kind of scent this is for me, would make it well-suited to fall and early winter commutes to work, coffee and warm pastry, and reading the latest and greatest dire world events with a newpaper on the side. This is a modern scent for the man that values tradition, dapper looks, structured keeping, and doesn't like showing emotion in public. This most likely fell into the hands of mature guys when it was sold in the Avon catalogs, and nothing has really been heard since scent-wise from Hervé Léger, because unlike past designer collaborators like Feraud or Ungaro, Léger wasn't beforehand nor still isn't an established name in fragrance when they jumped into bed with Avon. Enjoy this for what it is, and if you like quality woods but with a modern sweet touch, this comes recommended, but fair warning: it's not very heavy and will require reapplications throughout the day.
06th November, 2017

PS by Paul Sebastian

Paul Sebastian Fine Cologne is one of my few, rare "perfects" for so many different reasons, where shall I begin? For starters, few know that Paul Sebastian is not an individual designer, but rather a portmanteau of the middle names of it's two creators: Leonard Paul Cuozzo and Alan Sebastian Greco. These New Jersey residents concocted this scent completely on their own in 1979, and began marketing it locally to various Tri-State area shops via relationships with distributors and made a name for themselves with the scent in and around their home turf. They had considerable success without any traditional marketing and advertisement by packing the scent along with PS-branded gifts like mugs and playing cards, etc. Interest in the scent grew and soon PSI Paul Sebastian Inc. was a fragrance company making this stuff for global distribution, eventually launching a women's scent "Design" in 1985, to be followed by the male counterpart a decade later, along with "Casual" the same year. Before long PSI Paul Sebastian Inc was bought by FFI and eventually absorbed into EA Fragrances where it is today, with our New Jersey entrepreneurs probably sitting on a mint before it was all over.

As for the rest of us, well what we got was a staple oriental that no man should really ever be without. PS Fine Cologne is exactly that: an expertly blended assemblage of classic basenotes such as sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, musk, with a very simple heart and middle note structure of sage and lavender that just takes us by the hand and leads us down into the warm comfort of that base within minutes of dry-down. PS is warm and inviting, sweet, elegantly simple, yet sophisticated from the blending; one is hard-pressed to pick out any of the individual notes except maybe the armoise, lavender, and vanilla. I'd swear there is some sort of fatty or fecal note in here too lending additional thickness, but I'm no expert nose. The way PS goes on skin fresh then softens, heats, and mellows it's way to the finish makes it perhaps the most inoffensive oriental I've seen, which is part of why it's just so great. You can slap this on in summer just a tad to project that lavender and sandalwood, heap it on in winter to really crank up the vanilla and musk, plus just dot it or it's slightly lighter after shave component around during any season after a wet shave or shower to soothe the senses. It's genteel and classy enough to hang at fine dining occasions or professional meetings, but sensual enough for romantic use too. I'd say this one doesn't quite fit in athletic use or day trips with friends, as it just doesn't have enough fresh oomph for that, but an oriental fragrance is as an oriental fragrance does.

There is a bit of a warning side-note to this however: overapplying turns what is otherwise a refined and gentle scent into an oily, fatty, and musky sillage monster of nose-bleeding proportions. There was a coworker of mine years and years ago that ruined my taste for Joop and nearly ruined my taste for this as well by using it in weapons-grade quantities. I don't know what it was about this guy picking the strongest male fragrances out there and then spraying or splashing them to death all over him, but despite this one's mild manner, it can be a unsavory sweltering beast if you don't use it properly. PS is a strong fragrance by the nature of it's composition, but it's not a throbbing, pulsing strong like some powerhouse scents of the period, but rather a steady sustaining power chord from a lovely vintage guitar; it's the kind of strong that mesmerizes you rather than puts you on the defensive. This timeless scent could have come about in the 20's, the 60's the tail end of the 70's as it did, or now, it's just that timeless. It uses commonly found ingredients in an execution that elevates them to a place far greater than the sum of their parts. Bravo to those two guys from New Jersey, they have my heart in their hands.
01st November, 2017

Lover Boy by Avon

Lover Boy debuted alongside Black Suede, which isn't the first time Avon had released two new masculines side by side to my knowledge, a practice they would exercise in abundance by the 2000's. Lover Boy was intended to be something young, something romantic, a fragrance literally developed with the intent of finding that special someone at the dance. I don't know how well this succeeded in it's mission statement due to how quickly it faded from view, and considering how much of it survives in the aftermarket, I'd say it didn't succeed. No, it's not a partnership with the 80's rock band Loverboy, but the packaging is close enough that it could have been, and it's just another quirky and sometimes enjoyable piece of Avon kitsch. I love powdery fougeres and chypres a little more than the average guy my age, so I give this a thumbs up, but if I were more objective with my view on it, I probably would call this a weak effort.

Lover Boy opens with a sharp powdery bite, not altogether different than English Leather; Lover Boy is like most Avon from the 60's, 70's and early 80's in that if smelled from the bottle without application, one will suspect a designer clone, because they loved using common top notes and making the degrees of separation more noticeable in the dry-down. Many folks who would review this without attempting to use some would never get the full character of the scent. After the Lover Boy lays on skin or fabric, a really soft and sweet powdery accord begins to ring out, proving the scent to be a classic fougere. Lover Boy comes across like a man's scent trying to appeal to what was assumed then to be a woman's palette. There's odd hint of satya/nag champa here but I think it's implied by the other notes because I don't think Avon had enough forward thinking perfumers to dare mixing that into something made for a late 70's/early 80's western market. There's also lots of heliotrope here, making this feel like a men's "Love's Baby Soft" and I wouldn't be surprised if it was developed as a femme scent then gender-flipped in the marketing. The fragrance finishes very discreet and light on the skin, and this would not hold up past an evening of use no matter how much is applied.

If the idea was to "score" with this, then why not make it more or less a feminine fragrance with a masculine backbone? That's the thinking here and Lover Boy attempts what Liz Claiborne's "Curve for men" would achieve over a decade later: being a soft, subtle men's scent women crave, and thus an aromatic aphrodisiac. I don't think it succeeded because unlike the 90's Claiborne scent, it's just too damn obvious in intention and made from common components without any modern aromachemical boost. Any potential partner male or female would chuckle at this like they would Jovan Sex Appeal or Jaques Bogart One Man Show. It's a good, safe, and "nice" scent, so I'm not saying this with any sort of avarice whatsoever, but it's just not romantic. You can't wear your heart on your sleeve so why would it look any better on the bottle of your signature fragrance? Ultimately, this is a nice light daywear scent if you love powdery sweet and sexually ambiguous scents, but that isn't it's purpose is it? Avon's Lover Boy probably spent most of it's time at the dance adjusting it's hair in the mirror before leaving for the dance just to spend it all sitting it out.
29th October, 2017 (last edited: 17th November, 2017)

King by Parfums de Coeur

I need to start by saying that Parfums de Coeur has one of the worst reputations if not the worst in the industry, seriously a step below even the Axe/Lynx line and is probably only beaten in the il-repute department by companies that make "Classic Match" and "Jordache" designer imposters. PDC even made those very same designer imposters themselves for a while, until they discovered that frugal folks would accept a no-name original fragrance in a plastic glass cleaner bottle over an imposter one in a glass decanter, and adjusted their business model to suit (until the imposters line recently came back). Granted, the BOD sprays I'm foreshadowing here aren't terrible, and certainly hold more personality than Axe/Lynx creations, but still sit lower on the totem pole due to their raunchy and right-out-in-the-open sex appeal. I mean seriously, "Really Ripped Abs" is something you work out in the gym to attain if you even want them, not something you can spray on, and if you could somehow harness the smell of a man's midsection, would you want to wear it in public??? Anyways, outside of the women's "Skin Musk" line, PDC doesn't really make much signature fragrance of their own, and zilch for men, at least until this came along.

King by Parfums de Coeur is now discontinued, and so obscure and unloved that stock of it doesn't even turn up on eBay, probably due to the name of the manufacturer. Anybody looking for an original scent won't think of the PDC brand, and anyone looking for PDC is searching for a deal on BOD spray or an imposter scent. It's a shame really, as PDC did put forth a valiant effort, even if the end result is a bit dated in design. King debuted in 2008 and saw a huge push at big box chains, particularly Walmart, where samples of it could be found and it received it's own complete aisle endcap in the fragrance section. The scent of King is advertised as lasting for 12 hours or more on the skin, and being fresh, clean, and manly; I'd mostly confirm this as I have had about 2 bottles of it since it launched, although I fear my current one will be my last unless a secret stash turns up somewhere. The scent opens like Drakkar Noir, but even soaper (if that's possible to imagine) and removes the "noir" elements of mint, verbena, wormwood and cedar, in favor of brighter tones that bring this somewhere into late 60's and early 70's aromatic fougere territory, but without all the musks and mosses those scents favored. What one is left with is an aromatic fougere that reinterprets the vibe with sandalwood, incense and 80's powerhouse aromachemicals that shoot it into the life expectancy the box claims it has.

King was a good respectable scent, probably a bit of a scent out of time, and would have been better in 1988 than 2008. There's not a thing modern about it at all, but being as folks who shopped at places such as Walmart never explored fragrance much and probably stuck with classics anyway, it was more likely intended to be this way than not. Considering PDC is mostly a body spray and imposter company, they probably bought an old unused formula off another design house and slapped their own name on it, who knows? What I do know is this is a fairly bright, sparkling, and pungent aromatic fougere that if used sparingly, will offer hours of inoffensive and polite scent perfect for the office, casual meets, and a day running errands. Nobody is going to fall in love with you wearing this, but nobody is going to feel like their space is invaded either. It sits pretty high in my rankings as a utility scent, but now that it's drying up, it might get relegated to the special occasion, which is really not what it is for honestly.
29th October, 2017

Giorgio for Men by Giorgio Beverly Hills

The tale of Giorgio Beverly Hills is legendary: a Californian boutique shop that literally established Rodeo Drive as a shopping center for the ultra-elite in 1961, helping to move other ultra-lux brands like Gucci and Tiffany's into the area, then deciding to make a signature fragrance in 1979 that launched in 1981 with scented strips in magazines, plus a big party hosted by TV celeb Merv Griffin. That perfume was such a loud and strikingly obtuse tuberose-based 80's battlecry that it literally conjures the visage of teased hair, geometric makeup, and wide shoulder pads to this day. If you're wearing Giorgio in the 21st century, you're either retro-chic and love the 80's or are an early Gen-X'er that is clinging to High School memories. The perfume was even banned from restaurants back in the day.

The men's scent however, seems as much an afterthought from Giorgio as the main feminine one an icon, yet it is every bit as powerful in it's own way. It doesn't have as grandiose a story to tell, as it wasn't launched with as much fanfare outside some magazine ads and the slogan of "The great new AMERICAN fragrance for men" which really says little about the way it smells at all. It didn't even come around until 3 years after the original feminine and received a "VIP" flanker in 1987 when Giorgio Beverly Hills was sold to Avon as a fragrance brand by the boutique (which renamed itself Fred Hayman Beverly Hills after one of the founders to distance itself from the monster fragrance brand it had become). Avon quietly discontinued the masculines after a few more years because they never allow anything to simmer down to niche production levels like other houses, and the brand name created Red and Wings to remain relevant in the 90's. Design house Giorgio Beverly Hills was sold to Revlon who then kicked it down to Elizabeth Arden Inc. where the idea to revive this surfaced.

Somebody must have thought back then that the male scent had to be every bit as crass, every bit as shrill, and every bit as divisive as the original parfum; a proper Giorgio scent is not unless it divides the room into folks who love it and folks who flee for their lives to escape. Indeed since owning this, I have encountered two kinds of people: folks who ask me what I'm wearing, and folks who demand to know what in the name of all that's decent am I wearing, there simply is no in-between. Unfortunately, this one mostly failed due to lackluster marketing. Giorgio had become such a culturally significant women's perfume that like Opium or Poison, it described the woman wearing it, but Giorgio Beverly Hills for Men never benefited from that push and reputation development; unlike stuff such as Drakkar Noir and Stetson, it never made that kind of cultural mark and just stood quietly beside the main perfume, much like men did when they played pool at the original boutique as their lady interests shopped. It's no wonder it's remembered by a select few who loved (or hated) it's intensity, but otherwise gets "Giorgio made a men's version?" from most younger folks who see it.

Giorgio Beverly Hills for Men is in a nutshell honey and patchouli. If there are top notes in this, and clearly some are listed, they get completely submerged in those two accords the instant this hits skin. Maybe the orange blossom, carnation, and cinnamon freshen and sweeten the patchouli enough to prevent it from being head shop in a bottle, but once the dry-down occurs, the honey peeks up it's head through the forest of patchouli and anchors it down, with everything else like the vanilla, moss, and benzoin just rounding the corners a bit if anything. I've heard this referred to as a "honey patchouli bomb" by other folks who have owned this, and they're not wrong, not one little bit. If you over-apply this, which is very easy given it's strength, you'll walk into a house and instantly kill off any roaches or mice dwelling in the floorboards, which might be a new business opportunity for you if wearing this frequently is your bag. I actually enjoy this on a daytime walk, through the woods or a day of errands. The patchouli is green enough to compliment spring or fall air, while the honey keeps it warmed and sweetened enough to be approachable to other life forms that walk near (but not always Human beings). I would not use this romantically nor in an office space, as this one needs outside air to breath and remain pleasant. This is not a social event scent where wading through a crowd will happen, because you'll instead part that crowd. It's no Joop to be sure, but it's in the same train of thought nonetheless.

Ultimately, I kind of find this to be a better British Sterling, as it takes the same "green fougere" route of that scent but really simplifies and augments the personality of it, with the singular green patchouli accord, the sweet base, and the plumes of sillage that British Sterling can only be envious of possessing. I'm glad this came back from the dead, and the only real noticeable difference besides a shift from amber colored juice to green (a more appropriate color for it to be honest) is maybe a little less moss, but that was never noticeably there to begin with, so tweaking to meet IFRA regulations did little to alter this scent, which can only be a good thing to those worried about maybe replacing that exhausted vintage bottle with new stock. It's a rare five star rating for me, because I do absolutely love green and sweet, which is what this primarily is, but I also understand that rating is very subjective.
28th October, 2017

Joop! Homme by Joop!

This is quite possibly the most powerful of the powerhouses from the 80's, and it makes perfect sense that it would come right at the very end of that decade, just as aquatics, new-generation "fresh" fougeres, and ozonics were coming into vogue. "Joop!" Took everyone by surprise and shocked as many people who tried it as walked past somebody wearing it, which seems to be the point of the scent; get everyone's attention at all costs. It's a very gender-neutral for a masculine scent with it's humongous blast of fruit and flowers, but it has the kind of depth only allowed to mid-century feminines and typical masculine fougeres, meaning it could be marketed as either, really. I discovered this stuff pretty much on recommendation of a friend, as it was one of his father's go-to scents, and he swore by anything his father liked (this was how I ended up discovering Drakkar Noir as well). Joop! seemed quite a go-getter with it's loud pink/purple juice and exclamation point on the bottle, and when you "jooped" it onto your skin, there it would stay until next time you washed. The stuff literally does have near-infinite longevity and will need to be laundered from clothes if you apply it there, it's -that strong-. I don't know why they just don't call this stuff Eau de Parfum, but maybe that implies too much femininity, despite masculine parfums appearing not a decade or so later anyway.

The smell of Joop! opens with fruit fruit fruit fruit and spice like somebody is bashing your skull in with a mallet made of Cheerwine bottles and cherry sours dipped in cinnamon sugar. Orange blossom, jasmine, and honeysuckle makes the transition from that intense spicy fruit blast, carrying you into an abyss of florals until the scent finally dries down somewhat into a mire of practically every common fougere base note known to man: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Patchouli, Amber, Tonka bean, Musk, and Vanilla are all there having a fist fight over who gets to catch you as you fall into a pit of olfactory over-stimulation. In the end, nobody catches you, the trust-fall has failed, and you continue to plummet until you're able to shower later on. The heart and base notes last virtually until you scrub them off yourself or your clothes, as mentioned before, and this stuff is so virile that literally 2 sprays is all most people ever need. Depending on the weather, 2 sprays may still be too much and this is most certainly NOT a humid weather or summer day scent. PLEASE DO NOT WEAR IT UNDER THESE CONDITIONS OR EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU. Every experience I've had with other guys wearing this has always been one where I can smell them coming before I see them, so it goes without saying that you need to take great care in harnessing the awesome power of this one. Think of Uncle Ben talking to Peter Parker about great responsibility, and you get my point.

I think it's quite unique, and a tremendous value considering it's price and potency, but I have to knock it down a peg a bit in overall rating because I've just been overexposed and burned out from this scent one too many times. I literally still have the original bottle I bought in the 1990's because I can't bring myself to use this after all the bad run-ins with people wearing this. Joop! is the cologne for cologne guys that want to live their stereotype of being called out for their scent du jour, and don't always care if that is a positive or negative call out at that. It's spawned an entire line of related products and flankers thanks to it's success, and it has become a little less ubiquitous post 2010 than it was for the first 20 years, due to the darker and dustier scents returning to vogue (thanks Tom Ford) but I think this kind of sweet and syrupy scent is moving into "classic" or even "niche" territory is a long way off, as it's reputation is nearly that of Eternity. A few other design houses went for the potency and thickness of this stuff in their fragrances throughout the 90's as if they were trying to make a trope out of what Parfums Joop had done, but it ended up not panning out, and I can remember stuff like Iceberg Twice and Aura by Jacomo just smelling too heavy but not distinct like this did. If you like lots of fruit and flowers, go for this one, but otherwise, give it a wide berth. You've probably already smelled this somewhere and just didn't know what it was if you've worked retail or spend a lot of time in white-collar middle management, that's where Joop! tends to stalk it's prey.

26th October, 2017 (last edited: 28th October, 2017)

Structured for Men by Avon

Structured for men from 1969 is an odd, fairly rare, and interesting attempt at a men's version of an old-school fragrance set, just like the kind Avon used to make back at the turn of the 20th century when they still went by "California Perfume Company". Not sure who's idea it was to come up with this three-piece whammy at a time when it was still just starting to be acceptable for the average guy to have a signature scent (e.g. Brut), let alone a collection of them. We were still about a decade away from the "cologne guy" stereotype that would emerge and be made light of in the film "Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy" so I'm not really sure if there was yet a market for multi-piece male-oriented scent set, but here it is regardless. There also must not have been much advertising or push for this set either, as little to nothing remains besides it being mentioned in passing among other items in more generalized Avon ads of the time. What I find most fascinating is the three fragrances in this set are unique to it, not just in name but in smell also, and were never sold separately. This means no refills for spent decanters and only the purchase of a complete set were possible back when it was new.

Finding a complete surviving set of this for sale second hand is extremely difficult and finding the separate bottles can also be a bother too, prohibiting their use. Thus, my impressions here are from bottle-sniffing alone, which I usually frown upon for reviews, so bear with me. This strange trifecta of masculine fragrance comprises of scents each named after a building material, which when combined will comprise the "structure" I suppose this set is meant to imply as part of it's dual-meaning (the other being structured/well-groomed men). The scents in question are Steel, Glass, and Wood. Starting with "Steel", one is presented with an oddly camphorous, which lends a breathless cold quality, dressed up in fougere fresh tones like bergamot and lavender. It's closest relative is Windjammer from the previous year, of which "Steel" is probably a development of, or a prototype used for this set. Next in line is "Glass". which is the lightest and sweetest of the three. It's another fougere but it's got the powdery notes turned way down, with the sweet elements cranked way up. It's like a very sugary Wild Country without the heliotrope. It's the most wearable of the bunch due to this lightness, but also the most boring. "Wood" rounds out this set, and smells like Avon Leather but and expansion of that scent with added herbs and wood tones (of course). I think these additional notes actually make the scent more wearable than Leather and also feels like a further development or prototype.

All told, Structured is a cool find not because it's rare, quirky, or even noteworthy from a scent-alone perspective, but because it seems to be comprised of what smell like "B-sides" of then-popular Avon masculines. I don't know if these were indeed further re-dressings of previous releases, or beta versions that themselves saw redressing into their stand-alone forms, but the similarities between Windjammer, Wild Country, and Leather (respectively) with this set are undeniable. Maybe the idea was that guys who bought these three numbers together would literally just wear these and not explore the rest of Avon's catalog (and thus not find out any of this), or maybe it was a way for Avon to second guess their formulations and use the buying public as a guinea pigs. I can't say for sure, but these 3 little guys are pretty preculiar, and if not for being so rare, would be given a spin around the block at work to see how they fare in public use. As it is, this set is more of a trophy centerpiece of Avon kitsch than a practical addition to a wardrobe, but I'm glad I could at least shed a little light on them here. I applied 3 star ratings in all categories and gave a thumbs up because this set is more of a historical/collector interest than wearable scent and I wanted to be neutral in the wearable department.
26th October, 2017

Canoé by Dana

Canoe is most certainly the apex babershop fougere. When people ask me how it smells, I tell them it's literally the smell of the powder that the old mom and pop barbershops put on your neck after a fresh cut. This review could end right here if I wanted to be that concise, but it does little justice to the juice and it's history if I do. Canoe started out as an export-only in the US market: troops fighting the Nazis brought it home from France and instantly loved it's light, musky, powdery ambiance, as it was nothing like the spicy and fatty scents they had to subsist with back in the US. The British loved this scent too, as their own leathery and herbal concoctions were not as fresh to the nose, and it quickly became the global standard for the male fougere going forward, but with a dirty secret: It was originally meant to be a women's perfume.

Those who know the tale of Shulton's Old Spice, will know how this plays out too: Canoe was developed for Dana by Jean Carles and it was intended for the female audience. But unlike Old Spice's original feminine packaging (when it was called American Old Spice), Canoe was never sold under a different name then rebranded for men, it was just decided that it fit men better and sold in the trademark round bottle it's been known for since day one. Oddly enough, Jean Carles would revisit his creation in 1955 and tweak it for the ladies, creating "Ambush" perfume in the process, but the eventual discontinued fate of that fragrance probably proved that acting on second thoughts doesn't always prove fruitful. The scent eventually received global distribution and saw shipments to US stores sometime in the 50's, becoming a high-end alternative to the aforementioned Old Spice and other drugstore scents. The man who wore Canoe in those days was a learned, cultured, well-traveled and sophisticated man, of the upper-middle classes bare-minimum, or their sons more likely to be seen in Jack Purcell sneakers than the standard fish heads of the day.

The rest of the tale is the usual mass market ubiquity and eventual downmarket dilution that happens to classic fragrances when they literally become too popular for their own good: they becomes too well-known and well-liked to retain their air of prestige and suffer sales drops, then price cuts to keep them competitive as they slide downmarket, eventually leading to reformulations to reduce cost, which was something Canoe suffered long before IFRA standards started affecting fragrances. It didn't help that Dana also crashed and burned, being reborn as New Dana (and eventually Dana Classic Fragrances) after it was absorbed several times into different companies that ate each other along the way. Canoe suffered it's first major stylistic shift formulation in the 90's, when it stopped being made in France, not to meet regulations but to appeal to more modern tastes (it's right in the company's history if you look it up). Afterwards, reformulations were just to mostly meet regulations so there really is no huge difference in the scent of this stuff from 1990's onward, just the stuff beforehand.

Canoe from any decade opens mostly the same: there is a big rush of lavender, clary sage, and lemon, but the biggest difference is in the dry-down. Older batches with a white label and cap (made in France) will have much heavier heart notes and basenotes, offering a richer vanilla and musk experience past all the flowers and citrus, while the newer stuff finds a shift towards stronger topnotes that dominate the fragrance for longer, making it less rounded and more linear, which makes sense if it was aligned for then-modern tastes of the 90's. IFRA now restricts moss, so the rich base notes could never be restored even if they wanted to, at least not without a surrogate note added. It's honestly fine and still wearable without the heavier base, it just doesn't feel quite as quality or all-season, and shifts more towards a spring-summer scent, without the warmth to pierce colder fall or winter air. Nothing I've said here changes the basic and timeless barbershop vibe though, so if you do not like powdery barbershop tropes, this is the granddaddy of them all so I suggest steering clear.

Every niche barbershop scent maker that doesn't want to rekindle moustache-wax-eating hipster-friendly Victorian kitsch and become the next Penhaligon's goes strait for Canoe as it's source of inspiration, and I'm pretty sure "Dad's favorite barber" in business since the 50's still uses old stock Canoe talc on his hot towels after giving a buzz cut. Before Canoe, fougeres stood toe to toe with chypres in the male realm, as not everyone was happy with how aromatic or floral they were, but after Canoe shifted in an almost oriental sweetness and toned down the bite, fougeres became the masculine standard, crushing everything else strait on through until present day, despite evolving long past it's now-archaic structure. Wearing this stuff in the 21st century no longer gives off the letterman jacket vibe of a mid-century ivy league alumni, and people will likely just think you enjoy smelling like your dad or buying your cologne from Walmart, but if you want to shut somebody up you can always tell them that at least it still comes in a glass bottle.
23rd October, 2017 (last edited: 24th October, 2017)

Blend 7 by Avon

Blend 7 is an oddity from the 70's time period for Avon. It doesn't seem to have had nearly as much advertisement as some of it's earlier and later contemporaries, and it smells a fair bit more unique than most other things they made for men at the time. Blend 7 isn't really the 7th cologne from the house (it's somewhere around the 8th actually) and it was probably named to sound similar to the Halston Z-14 and 112 twins that were released 2 years back. The most intriguing thing about Blend 7 is it smells like a precursor to Quorum by Antonio Puig in many ways, and is a rather distinctive aromatic fougere unto itself. I reckon the smell of the stuff was either too ahead of the curve to be appreciated, or it's lack of promotion made it an also-ran alongside other male 70's favorites and it fell into obscurity for it.

Blend 7 has different opening notes than most green aromatics of this period, with it's slightly leathery and sweet anise accord, and quickly grows Quorom-like with heart notes of patchouli, jasmine, sandal, and maybe something rosy in there too, then dries down to the usual green mosses and tonka common to this scent. It's a lot drier than other aromatic fougeres of the period, and can be semi-related to Paco Rabanne just in the transition from heart to basenotes, but otherwise is pretty much it's own creature, and not something heavily "inspired" by a more prominent designer juice like Avon was increasingly wont to do by this period. The opening is really kind of scary and until you get past it, you think this thing is gonna be licorice on the skin, but that delivery system soon gives way to the real magic in this bottle.

Speaking of bottle, it's very "70's modernism" with softened corners and rectangular shapes, chrome cap, and "7" etched right on the glass. The cap is annoying poor in design, with the over-sized crown often separating from the cap itself when turned, just like the back end topper of most automotive decanter caps. Everything about this bottle and it's motif screams "Channel 7 news" and by appearance alone, I would say avoid this. Blend 7 is very deceptive in it's progression, but by the time it delivers it's pitch, it evolves into quite the dry, tart, pleasantly herbal and green fougere that can serve well in the work space or a casual day out, just not around anyone that can't appreciate dated fragrances. This "pre-quorom" may not have actually inspired that later Puig fragrance in any way, but one can't deny the similarities. Very interesting!
22nd October, 2017

Scott McClintock by Jessica McClintock

First off, this is such a well-balanced and blended scent that it's really hard to describe down to one or two facets. Secondly, it's both at once classic, and also modern, straddling both the old school approach to masculines and the newer mindset of chemically-augmented freshness. It's the best fragrance for that guy who wants to smell like he's wearing Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet but with a more modern backbone, or conversely, Calvin Klein's Eternity but with heavier amounts of classic barbershop elements like amber, vanilla and musk. Lastly, this scent was a real contender for the Chanels, Guerlains, Creeds, (and now Tom Fords) of the world, and I say -was- because it's fate is unknown and presumably discontinued. I was lucky enough to snag a full 1.7 oz bottle from a rummage shop for $5 but it easily sells for that plus an extra zero at the end at the low-side of things, and up to several hundreds for the larger and even rarer 3.4oz bottle.

The scent opens like a classic French fougere, with lush citrus, amber, green notes, and quickly tumbles into woods, vanilla, and something syrupy sweet that ends up taking the fragrance to it's inevitable musk and moss conclusion. It begins very loud when sprayed, and can induce headache or system shocks to those not accustomed, so apply this one in the bathroom with the door closed, as even spraying into hand does little good since the sprayer on this one is super powerful and emits a lot of blow-back. The fragrance dries down fairly quickly however, and is fast reduced to little above a skin scent, placing it in the general Avon and Coty territory of "come closer if you like what you smell" games. The Blenheim Bouquet comparison comes across with such a ringing herbal and wood accord in the beginning and middle, as if the designers deliberately wanted to channel Victorian and turn-of-the-century barbershop composition only to bait-and-switch for something a bit more manufactured after the settling process occurs. It's a modern scent built with old-fashioned parts and probably the last of it's kind before ozonics took over, sending this directly into the realms of niche users and hipsters down for old-timey scents as I'm sure nobody will guess this came out in 1992 when they smell it.

Overall, this is a phenomenal find for anyone that likes to have their cake and eat it too: it's a no-compromise scent that is both masculine and softly inviting, fresh enough to exist in a modern context but rich enough to appeal to that person who loves vintage "man's man" vibes. I'd say it's still limited to night time use or romantic occasions due to it's character, but it's nearly an all-seasons scent outside of sweltering summers. It was the only masculine that obscure designer Jessica McClintock had made thus far, and it's a huge hat's off to the designer to nail it so well in the first (and so far only) try. If you wanna wade into expensive discontinued aftermarket prices, be my guest, as it might be worth it to you.
22nd October, 2017