Perfume Directory

JHL (1982)
by Aramis


JHL information

Year of Launch1982
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 208 votes)

People and companies

PerfumerJosephine Catapano
Parent CompanyEstee Lauder Companies > Aramis and Designer Fragrances
Parent Company at launchEstee Lauder Companies

About JHL

Created by Estee Lauder for her husband, whose initials were JHL. (Joseph Harold Lauder). The bottle was supposedly inpired by the shape of his favoured cognac, and the original box design was based on his favourite smoking jacket.

JHL fragrance notes

Reviews of JHL

A lovely and beautiful masculine oriental fragrance, as dreamy and rich as one could hope from this genre of concept. Orientals were the province of women's perfume in the early 20th century, coexisting alongside chypres in those days, giving ladies a choice between aldehyde and florals, or rich spices to entice a suitor. Paradigm shifts occurred mid-century, and men were given rather citric chypres of their own, but by the time fougères returned to prominence among men they too needed a heavier counterpoint, whereas fougères themselves were once the richer and sweeter of the men's fragrance spectrum. The first of these masculine orientals came out in the early 70's, full of burning spice and sharp notes that cried "manly" in the way all that lemon and civet used to with chypres. However, as orientals smoothed out and warmed up to better contrast the fougères as the latter grew increasingly dense, stuff like JHL began to appear on the market. JHL is short for Joseph Harold Lauder, and as the box blurb will tell you, Estée Lauder herself was the nose behind the scent (assisted by Bernard Chant), crafting it for her husband but ultimately selling it to the public under the Aramis label rather than keeping it bespoke like in the days of old. It's a scent with sweetness and delectable character that foreshadowed increasingly creamy oriental masculines, and even the coming of gourmands a few decades down the road. It's a legendary masterpiece that by rights should have stayed bespoke to the late Mr. Lauder, but we're glad it didn't.

JHL opens up with bergamot, lemon, orange, and pimento, all of which are edible notes, and quickly softens into cinnamon and carnation, rose, with a tiny sharp bit of pine to keep it from being too sticky sweet. The base is labdanum, an old chypre favorite, and vanilla, which rounds out the oriental spice and gourmand tendancies. Patchouli and sandalwood being the only traditionally non-edible notes besides the flowers, add enough green and dry woods in the base to keep this from being a really early example of a gourmand. There is also that slight touch of compact makeup in the base not unlike Avon's Black Suede (1980). The scent's richness comes across like Old Spice done on a much higher budget with a greater degree of control, and remember that Old Spice was accidentally a male oriental in it's day because guys loved it over the women to whom it was originally marketed. JHL could almost be seen as a feminine if it came out in the 1920's or 1930's instead of 1982, but so drastic was the aforementioned paradigm shift that those older orientals could in this period arguably be pulled off by guys instead. The very distinctly heady aroma of this could also suggest tobacco and leather, which isn't "officially" there but in this layering of notes could be snuck between for all we know. It's the kind of thing that to me predated the runaway success of Calvin Klein's Obsession for men (1986), was done much better, but didn't have the marketing behind it outside of the Aramis reputation, thus becoming an unsung hero instead.

JHL is most certainly an esteemed masculine among collectors in the catalogs of Estée Lauder, and as others have noted, does indeed smell like a masculine reworking of her own Cinnabar (1978), or more distantly, the bath oil-turned-perfume Youth Dew (1953). My mother owned the former, so I can tell from exposure to it that if Estée Lauder was truly the primary nose behind this fragrance, she did well not to ride too closely to her own fairly recent cinnamon and clove bomb of a perfume, and I dare say JHL is more subtle than Cinnabar, at least in memory since I don't collect feminines, and Cinnabar has probably aged less gracefully in my head for it. All told, it's really difficult to fully describe the enveloping spice, sweetness, leathery masculinity, and scrumptious body of this oriental artwork. It's very seductive, but also very mature, and is more of a romance by the fire place than a sweaty hotel night modern scents in this genre tend to depict. It's a grown-up love story, not a college one night stand, but can also be used in casual evening wear as well, just not in the office or in summer. JHL became quite an expensive rarity for a while after it was discontinued, then was brought back in 2009 as part of the Gentleman's Collection. It easily became the most popular (due to previous unavailability more so than being better than others in the set) and now has become somewhat rare and expensive again, as it is only found at inflated prices by resellers while the rest of the set is still available at retail. An utterly magnificent masculine oriental that's one of the best I've ever smelled, period.

P.S.: I'd say give it a try, but unless they make a third batch to bring prices back down to earth, it's a tough blind buy at over $100-$150 for the reissue and a kidney for vintage, so unless you know this is gonna be a winner because you just love male orientals and/or gourmands, you might want to sample only.
27th December, 2017 (last edited: 04th January, 2018)
I'm sampling what I think is vintage Aramis JHL, and enjoying it tremendously, which is typical for me sampling Aramis fragrances. I don't know if it's something I would wear often if I had a bottle - maybe - but it's a delicious, mouthwatering sampling experience. Old-school goodness, warm and spicy, masculine floral. I don't see moss listed, but it smells mossy to me, with its luscious texture.

Not to detract from how fantastic this is, but to remind myself what it smells like, somewhat: the best-smelling mens' deodorants from the 1980s smelled like rip offs of this, or tributes to it - the Speed Stick by Mennen with the brown cap, the spicy one, comes to mind.

What seemingly makes this perfume so great is some animalic component, I think musk. As much as I like this, I would want to get a great deal on the original version to buy a bottle - I don't think it's something I would wear often. I get more joy from the opening and early stages than the base.
13th December, 2017
Just found a mini bottle of the vintage version with about 2.5 ml still remaining. I'm absolutely amazed at the quality of this juice. So well blended, rich and alluring, with outstanding sillage. In all honesty, it's not really my style - I lean more toward vintage Versace L'Homme, but I just marvel at the quality of JHL. As others have stated, it smells like the men's version of Cinnabar or YSL Opium. I don't find JHL manly at all, but I still hold it in high regard because it's so well crafted, like a fine elixir.
The reformulated version has similar topnotes, but it comes nowhere close to recapturing the magic of this
exquisite scent. I would definitely not recommend this for anyone who wears contemporary aquatic scents - they probably would be repulsed by how earthy this smells. For those who appreciate fine quality, however, vintage JHL will always be much sought after.
12th December, 2017
champhorated spicy oriental slightly reminiscent of Krizia Moods Uomo, good performer!
06th November, 2017
Zowiee Show all reviews
United States
Bold and smooth fragrance that I adore. All the notes flow together in an aromatic symphony, while at the same time each note is there, ready for a solo. On my skin the fir, rose, patchouli and sandalwood seem to be the dominate notes, but I can smell the others. Quite an amazing fragrance, for a great price in today's bevy of overpriced and underperforming fragrances.
25th March, 2017
A rare, overlooked scent by Aramis. I find JHL to be for the mature midlife man, exuding confidence and sensuality wherever he roams. JHL blends together leathery and warm woods in a refined, tasteful way. There is a sweet presence that underpins this fragrance, and overall JHL makes a statement of elegance that I never tire of.
03rd December, 2016

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