Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme’s conventional bergamot and lavender top notes are deceptively subtle given the power this scent unleashes after a half an hour on the skin. By that point Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme has arrayed cedar, leather, patchouli, and vetiver atop a dry mossy wood foundation. It’s the vetiver and patchouli that dominate for some time, placing Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme firmly within the realm of “gentleman’s club” scents, epitomized by “Vintage” Tabarome, and also occupied by Macassar, Baladin, and Équipage.
This whole style is unfashionable right now, but even so, I don’t think Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme represents the best its genre has to offer. Scents like Jules and Lauder for Men exhibit a similar gravity, but with more conspicuous animalic accents that make them less staid and stodgy. In its favor, I can say of Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme that it avoids the belching, buttcrack-showing crudeness of Macassar. On the other hand, it really is more than a little dull. As it ages, Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme bounces back and forth indecisively between leather chypre and heavy fougère, before settling into a comfortable, but hardly distinctive, moss, cedar, and patchouli drydown. OK, I suppose, but no match for the finest in its class.
I remember once trying an experiment in 'persistence of vision'. You stare at a flag like a tricoleur, or a union jack, or the stars and stripes, for about two minutes without moving, and then turn and look a t a blank white wall. On the wall, you see the flag, but with all the colours and tone values reversed, like a negative.
I think the same phenomenon is at play here, in the olfactory sense. As the fragrance evolves, the disappearing first wave leaves behind it a perceived negative. This negative seems to work well as an accompaniment to the emerging bitumen and charcoal of the base. This fools you into thinking you smell good.
However, try this: spray it on something in the room. Leave the house for the day, and come back several hours later. Sparing yourself thus the olfactory fatigue and 'persistense' effect, you walk into the developed fragrance unmitigated.
Old peoples's homes. Decay. Cough syrup. Dandylion and Burdock cordial. Wizened academic with elbow-pads. Smoker's curtains. A mantelpiece with a plastic quartz carriage clock beside photographs of cats. Coffee-and-cream slacks and cardigan. Mothballs. Post office. The man who collects the twist ties from loaves of bread, because they might be useful one day.
To smell yourself as others smell you.
For sure VAPH is classic masculine (by the way I really can't imagine a woman wearing this one) But it smells too dated to me. The scent is very soapy and heady, which doesn't make it very inviting to my nose. Plus, longevity is... scary. Even though VAPH is not a fragrance I'd buy, I think it's a pillar for the genre. Hence my neutral rating.
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I really want to love this scent--it has everything going for it but somehow--on me, does not seem right. The few times that I have given it full wearings, I keep smelling it and thinking--who is that man and what is he wearing? Not in a good way. I love the era, the classic French jeweller's legacy, even most of the notes (although I am not a rose fan) but it just smells off to me. I get along better with Tsar but even then I like it but do not love it. Oddly enough, my college room mate used to wear this--he wasn't really a French cologne sort of guy so I am guessing that someone gave it to him. He was very preppy but in a rumpled, unkempt way and it smelled great on him; it went very well with the smell of Marlboro reds and bong water that seemed to follow him wherever he went. I'll keep trying it, though.
An ancient rose, filtered through grey gauze. Sober enough, and abstract, but pervaded by a stuffy Victorian sweetness. A gathering of diplomats on the lawn of an old chateau. An elderly aristocrat reading metaphysics in his paneled library. A hint of realms beyond. A smell of the grave almost. Distinguished and immaculate, but is it my imagination tells me that a bottle of this scent, presented to me in the 1980s by a certain Monsieur Suleiman, had much more depth and authority, but lacked that deathbed touch of sickly rose?
A masculine soapy-herbal-rose fragrance with animalic hints (castoreum?) and leather in the middle phase . Nice, well crafted but IMo not as much compelling as other perfumes of the same family.
VC & A certainly hits the ground running, and the general darkness that shrouds it is quickly evident. At times it is as black and dusty as running your tongue down a blackboard, but it also has a slightly smoky quality, like charred wood slowly cooling. It operates in quite narrow parameters, with little or no softness or vestiges of sentimentality.
This is perhaps more rugged than handsome, rough around the edges, and not quite polished enough to sit at the top table.
I've been sampling this monster for a few days now. It's a complex fragrance, not to be taken lightly. Frankly I don't get on with it, and I think I've come up with the primary accords that are coming at me from my right arm:
We have baby wipes atop a base of convenience-store incense, with some light floral notes sprinkled about.
I realize that this is a respected formulation, but I don't get it. It's definitely complex, and well put together. Not to mention a loudmouth in the sillage department. In the end, I find it to be powdery, moderately spicy and brooding without any solid base notes. This makes me think of the movie "Despicable Me," which I recently took my son to see. If Dr. Gru had a scent, this would be it.
While I personally think it's worthy of a thumbs down, I'm going with a neutral for now because there's a chance I'm missing something here. Definitely can't see myself wearing this.
I like classy old-school patchouli leathers. This is a bit over the top and powdery for me to really love on a day-to-day basis.
The vetiver-patchouli heart is great, but it's covered up by soapy florals. I just can't quite get convinced.
I have a love-hate relationship with the classic VC&A fragrance. It's a big, heavy and loud beast which reeks of quality and status, but it's also incredibly easy to over-do. Of all the fragrances I've tried and bought over the years, this one more than any other seems to react strongly to everything - weather, body temperature, atmosphere...hell, it probably even reacts to the mood you're in. Applied at the right time and in the right quantity, then VC&A is a lovely spicy and festive frag with hints of berries, citrus and woods which smells like nothing else on the market and will pleasantly stay with you for most of the day. Apply too much however (and, with this, literally one spray can make the difference between just right and WAY too much, it's that sensitive) and the castoreum and musk take over and you will pick up all sorts of other things you'd not noticed before which are less welcome - worn socks, sweat, a rancid note and the stereotypical "over powering stinky cologne" note. What's worse is that if it does get to this stage, you're stuck with the smell for 24 hours or more and even a shower won't completely get rid of it. Very good juice which needs to be handled with lots of care.
Insanely rich, dense and complicated... a baroque juice out of place and out of time. Much has been made of JC Ellena's "First" for VC&A, and how he transitioned from a "maximalist" perfumer in the classic style (throw dozens of ingredients into a pot and make a rich stew) to a minimalist one. While this isn't a creation of JCE, it's basically the male analog - sharp, virulently powerful, and loaded to the gills with ingredients. Unlike other complicated brews like Kouros, which maintains a certain timeless freshness, this one reeks of the 70s with its insistent, pungent tendrils of sandalwood and patchouli, all held together by an evil, viscous castoreum. If there ever was a juice that was NOT made for direct spraying onto the body, this is it -- even the mist will stay with you for hours. Admirable complexity, shrieking sillage, but really so completely out of time that it's probably only appropriate for aging Greek millionaires and Arab sheikhs stuck in a time capsule.
A luxurious scent recalling excesses, perfect for a romantic night?
The botle is still in my wardrobe, its content almost unaltered. It was a gift from my parents made back in 1981 (!).
I remembered I did not like it at all. Still, many times before going to bed I insistently poured minimun amounts of it on my skin just to analyze the scent. Even though my efforts, I could not understand the designer's criteria: perceptions revolved around ideas of oriental luxury: excesess (well, the 1970's was a decade of excesses).
It was marketed in duty free shops under a premium price policiy. I will save you socio cultural explanations as to connotations of "rich" in Argentina, just to be straighforward, it is associated with bad taste - just picture yourself a "capo di mafia", celebrities or whatever (the sort of people that makes you ask yourself "who are these ones?"), and you'll get the picture.
So, I always imagined that wearing it while in an elevator would asphyxiate the rest of the passangers or, worst still, someone would arrive to conclusions about personal disposable income management.
Now, on the positive side, I can't stop associating top notes with intimate physicial occasions cleverly recalling romantic aspects through its basenotes.
Thus, I would suggest using it with care when having sex with your lover. One or two drops in key body parts can make the trick... if your partner likes it, of course.
An old fourgere. An old powerhouse. Wait this is as "old" as I am! What am I talking about? Haha. Spicy and lush scent and very potent yet has that watery feeling I get with other fougere style fragrances. Just feels out of place amongst the new offerings.
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Whoa -- too much for me -- I'm not a fat cat big game hunter. It's a lovely, spicy rich scent but way too powerful and of its time I think -- this will clear a train carriage no problem.
This should be called "Le Dandy" not the current offering from D'Orsay, which is a plumb watered- down concoction compared to VCA pour Homme. I have tried Van Cleef & Arpels many, many times hoping that the virtues so highly praised here would become apparent to me, but alas they haven't. I admit it's well made; complex and heady; and it surely stands out. And if you wear this you WILL also stand out! The problem in a word is that it is too perfumey for me (the expression "phew!" comes to mind). Frankly, I love a lot of fragrances that are supposedly best suited for mature men. I am chronologically just getting into that classification myself (an advanced stage of youth I call it), but I can't go for this yet. I am too young. It reminds me of a certain type of rich guy, a big doughy businessman who looks a little like the late character actor Jesse White, and has lunch regularly at "21", the Four Seasons, or some such, and has at least a nodding acquaintance with luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and David Rockerfeller. The suits are shinny and expensive and so are the big cufflinks. He used to smoke a cigar everywhere, but times have changed. He tells the much younger women he is boring at lunch that Henry is an old school chum, and that he gave him his favorite cologne Van Cleef & Arpels for his birthday. She tries to be impressed. I have tried to be impressed as well, but have not come around to loving this. But I am not giving up entirely, I am just going to wait for the urge to have a "niece" half my age to take to lunch or dinner, then maybe this will come in handy.
UPDATE AUGUST 2014-- Well I had a chance to try this again, and bought it. Don't really know why. The first thing I noticed is that it is not as strong as it used to be. I am sure it's been reformulated and tone down. I like the elements; I like that is so retro it's almost revolutionary; I like that it's so hard to come by, at least in new bottles. God knows what they are actually selling in those awful discount shops. This is an experiment. Maybe I am getting older and I am now looking for a "niece" to take to lunch at "21"… At least I won't smell obnoxious wearing this now… Will I?
22nd December, 2007 (last edited: 03rd January, 2015)
After reading near-unanimous praise for this scent here at BN, I felt pretty secure buying blind when I noticed Van Cleef and Arpels pour Homme tucked away in the corner of the display case at the perfume kiosk in the mall. This place specializes in somewhat rare and discontinued classic fragrances you would never find among the heavily promoted fashion scents at the major department stores here in Vancouver, but presumably because of the difficulty of procuring some of these items, they have very few testers on hand and one must rely on popular (Basenotes!) opinion in making purchase decisions. Imagine my disgruntlement when i spritzed, sniffed and smelled something completely counter to my olfactory anticipation! VCA is clearly a complex and well-made scent and I supposed I can discern some of the notes mentioned by others, but there is some overriding element that is not very pleasing to my nose. I am still new to all this, so perhaps when i achieve a higher level of sophistication I can be more descriptive... It seems to me that there is some kind of leather note that I find cloying, and I get it right off the bat, even with a light misting. It backs off after a few minutes and things become much more tolerable, but I would be lying if I said I liked it. I've skin sampled Antaeus and Kouros once or twice, and if I recall, Kouros had a similar quality. I like Antaeus though, so I don't think I have an aversion to leathery scents, per se.
I shall keep VCApH around and study it from time to time. It may be that this is a good fragrance to learn from.
Oh, one other thing... I absolutely don't see how this would be a good summer fragrance. Hmm...
Good summer frag. Reminded me of about half of the Geo F Trumpers, Florises, (Flori? )Penhaligons and other good Brit scents that I like but don't really love. Not terribly exciting.
Yes, it is refined, mature and you'll smell as if you've got dough.
There are better offerings along the same lines, imho. Some from the same houses. Overall, at the pain of repetition, a good summer frag.
Good light sparkling citrus with fair longevity. Like Gendfarme, it won't offend.
04th December, 2006 (last edited: 19th June, 2009)
Although it has a good masculine scent, it smells like an expensive soap. It always reminds me of a soap. Am i wrong? Not sure about this fragrance.