The dictionary tells us that a sacred cow is an idiom that represents an idea, custom, or institution held, especially unreasonably, to be above criticism (with reference to the Hindus' respect for the cow as a sacred animal). Jean Kerleo’s 1980 Patou Pour Homme is a sacred cow if ever there was one.
Interestingly, when Patou Pour Homme was first released, it was not a big hit and, like the writer John Kennedy O’Toole, only received acclaim and adoration after its death. Patou made an attempt at product placement, positioning it as Don Johnson’s signature scent in Miami Vice, but it never took off, despite its brilliance. Discontinued, it became the Holy Grail of vintage perfume collectors, demanding prices commensurate with its demand.
Fast forward to 2014 when the House of Patou, under its new owners Shaneel Enterprises, reissued this mythical fragrance as part of their Collection Heritage under the direction of house perfumer Thomas Fontaine. This was huge news and eagerly awaited by the perfume community who sharpened their knives and were prepared to use them, should the reformulation fall short of expectations. The only other relaunch as keenly scrutinized has been the relaunch of another sacred cow, Helmut Lang’s Cuiron.
The relaunched scent is currently available and is very good—very good, indeed. Is it as good as Kerleo’s masterpiece? Far be it from me to say….
What I can say is that the new scent, in an IFRA-dominated word, has lost its oakmoss and Mysore sandalwood—well, that is no surprise—and gained a floral heart with lavender, jasmine, rose and violet joining the lineup, edging out the original vetiver, cedar patchouli and clary sage. These floral notes are more commonly used in feminine perfumes and the rose/jasmine accord is almost a house note for Patou, whose landmark perfume, Joy, is based on it.
Has Patou Pour Homme been emasculated, or just brought into the current age? The new scent is completely wearable now and while it may not have the richness and complexity of the original—or its resolutely masculine edge—it is beautiful, rich and expensive smelling. The spicy top notes of pepper are freshened by citrus and galbanum. A floral heart emerges that might once have seemed too feminine but now feels comfortably masculine. The base of leather and patchouli, while it does not compare to the woods and moss in the original, provides a warm, lingering drydown.
The reformulated Patou Pour Homme may no longer walk on water but it is still a very good scent—no longer a sacred cow, but just a quality, distinctive men’s scent. This could easily find a following in the market the way that the original never did; it has come out from under a bell jar and into our time. Seekers of perfection will continue their quest for vintage juice, but if you have not tried the original, try this—it is very good.