There have been many claims that Givenchy Gentleman and Bond No. 9 New York Hot Always EDP are similar, but very little analysis of the so called similarities and little to none of the differences. I’d like to set the record straight, and let me start by saying that the similarities are somewhat superficial, but more importantly, that the differences between Givenchy Gentleman and Bond No. 9 New York Hot Always are significant and important. We should be clear about this, at least for the sake of clarity.
On first spraying the two, one notices immediately that Givenchy Gentleman is fresher, cleaner, less cluttered and less heavy on the nose than Hot Always, which comes across as greasy (more about that below). Dare I say it, Givenchy Gentleman is more refined. With Givenchy Gentleman, the patchouli note is integrated and lightened by the significant presence of floral notes particularly those of rose and orris root. The purity of cedar also lightens and rounds out the harsh edges of the patchouli as does cinnamon, and there is an herbal note (tarragon, I believe) which adds a brightness that along with floral notes makes the heavier notes, and there are many of them (amber, civet, leather, oakmoss, and musk), float beneath the heart notes without ever pushing up into them and overwhelming them. At the heart of the fragrance, then, there are two accords: the creamy animalic woody leather accord, modulated and balanced by a gorgeous honey note and the prominent patchouli, which is freshened by the herbal coolness of tarragon, exalted by the buoyancy of rose and orris, integrated by the clean woodiness of cedar, and rounded out by the aromatic warm spiciness of the cinnamon. Givenchy Gentleman maintains this interplay between the two accords in a constant aromatic seamless interplay of notes, and there is a moment about and hour and a half into the drydown of the fragrance when the two accords disappear into each other to form an integrated and inimitable single accord. To me the evolution of Givenchy Gentleman from start to finish is one of the most joyous and fulfilling in all of perfumery. It’s a nonpareil.
By contrast I find Hot Always to be heavy handed. Sure it manages to capture the animalic creaminess of Givenchy Gentleman well enough, but what it does not manage to do is to integrate that animalic creaminess with the patchouli accord as does Givenchy Gentleman. Consequently, what you have missing in Hot Always is the genius of Givenchy Gentleman, missing in both senses of the word, that is, in the sense of artistic achievement and in the sense of creative spirit. This can also be seen in the respective pyramids of the two fragrances. Hot Always has no substantial floral presence, and no cedar or tarragon, or equivalents to freshen and soften the prominence of the patchouli and round out its harsh edges. As a result, and this is typical of fragrances in which the perfumer does not take care to modify patchouli’s harshness, the patchouli takes an inordinate amount of time to calm down to that wonderful, soft patchouli buzz, the elevating comforting enveloping feeling patchouli gives in its base notes. A good example of this is Montale’s Patchouli Leaves, which I find essentially unwearable because the patchouli’s dry, grating, burnt herbal harshness is so imposing till about 4 to 5 hours into the drydown. A common fault of most Montale fragrances as I see it––clumsy, heavy handed loaded openings that take hours to resolve into something bearable, speaking of which, back to Hot Always. The animalic creaminess does go some way to abating the harshness of the patchouli, but the cost of such integration and modification is that, at least to my nose, the patchouli in Hot Always smells a lot like the smell that remains on one’s clothing after one has been in a fast food restaurant where are lot of frying is done. It’s greasy and a little on the nauseating side. It ruins the fragrance for me. I am sorry but Hot Always does not even come close to matching Givenchy's elegance and aesthetic achievement, and I feel I have hardly done the genius of Givenchy Gentleman and its perfumer Paul Lèger any justice in this brief review.
Finally, the difference between Givenchy Gentleman and Bond No. 9 New York Hot Always is difference between the vanished, vanquished world of true couturier fashion and its slow, organic artistic innovation and a world in which it is believed that the way to create is to simply throw huge amounts of money at product development and image all the time. It’s a sad reflection on the times, and the ease with which so many people embrace these so called paragons of progress is quite disheartening. It’s the fetish of the new. A little more careful sniffing and a lot more careful thinking is the only thing I can think of at the moment that might mitigate against such a fetish.
P.S. For what it's worth, if any one wants my opinion on another patchouli paragon of progress, Comme des Garçons' Patchouli Luxe, he or she can have it in it six words: "You've got to be kidding? Right?" That's all I'll ever say about it, it's not really worth much more.