Years ago when I first read about A*Men I have to say I was more excited to try it than anything else I've heard about. The notes sound so interesting and unique. Coffee and tar? Peppermint and chocolate? I immediately bought a bottle blind, hated it and threw it in the trash. It's been so long though I couldn't remember exactly what I didn't like about it. And back then I was buying cheap bottles off ebay indiscriminately so I thought it was possible I got ahold of a bad bottle.
With all the talk there is on here and youtube about the flankers I thought I would give the original and some of the limited editions a try. Here we go!
I decided to try the original again first. This is exactly how I remember it. It's rough going on, a chemical blast of sweet smelling patchouli and chocolate. It smells a bit woody and I get a little bit of the mint. I don't detect any coffee in it. After about 15 minutes or so it settles down on my skin. I don't smell it when I get my nose close to my wrist but as I'm wearing this something in it has a musty smell like when you leave wet clothes in the wash machine too long.
I still don't enjoy wearing A*Men. I don't get the monster projection with it that everyone reports as well.
At this point I was worried about trying the flankers. From what I understand to create the flankers they just took a vat of A*Men and soaked things in it like pieces of leather or put it in used whiskey barrels, etc.
The next one I tried was Pure Havane. The cherry tobacco note is very prominent going on but it smells like there is some of the original A*Men base lurking underneath. The cherry tobacco note lasted about 3 hours on my skin and then the drydown kicked in. The drydown was....actually much better than the original, pretty nice. It has a sweet, creamy vanilla, honey kind of smell. This lasted about 3 or 4 hours and then it died down close to the skin. Some guys say it doesn't project well but I got a good 6, 7 hours of decent projection.
While this was better than the original I still wasn't wowed by it. If you like the cherry tobacco smell of this but wish it had more strength and longevity you need to check out Jacques Bogart Pour Homme. I don't have it anymore to try side by side but to my memory the cherry tobacco note there is very close and it definitely has more staying power.
Finally I tried Pure Malt. Some reviewers report the malt component as smelling boozy and like whisky, others report it smelling cereal-like. I don't smell either in Pure Malt. Going on it just smells like a better, smoother version of A*Men. The drydown of this eventually smells identical to that of Pure Havane.
Conclusion - The flankers are better than the original for sure but am not interested in seeking out a bottle of either one.