Perfume Directory

Black (2003)
by Kenneth Cole


Black information

Year of Launch2003
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 349 votes)

People and companies

HouseKenneth Cole
PerfumerHarry Fremont
PerfumerSabine de Tscharner
Parent CompanyBenckiser > Coty Inc > Coty Prestige
Parent Company at launchBenckiser > Coty Inc > Lancaster Group

About Black

Black is a masculine fragrance by Kenneth Cole. The scent was launched in 2003 and the fragrance was created by perfumers Sabine de Tscharner and Harry Fremont

Black fragrance notes

Reviews of Black

Oh Kenneth Cole, you are so 2000's it hurts, but I love you for it. That initial 2002-2006 run will always live in infamy as a time of chemical-induced tackiness which is the utter bane of existence for more "scrupled" male fragrance connoisseurs, but if you were a teen or in your early 20's as I was when these ozonic bombs first dropped, Kenneth Cole was your nightlife in a bottle. Unlike others in this segment, Kenneth Cole wasn't afraid to get loud, boisterous, and merge contrasting values into a single scent to up the ante. The original Kenneth Cole New York Men (2002) was a radioactive grapefruit and musk bomb that basically lead the charge after Calvin Klein's "a bit too much" Crave (2002) stayed by the wayside (a reminder that pandering gets you nowhere with the Y2K youth). Kenneth Cole would quickly jump ship like Michael Kors did away from Givenchy into more lucrative arrangements with Parlux, denying parent company LVMH the kickback from their growing prestige, so the original pair of fragrances from the house Cole built would be allowed to sell out then be discontinued, but the replacement banger was already lined up. Kenneth Cole Black (2003) was a less pretentious fragrance from a presentation standpoint, with a traditional glass bottle and script across the front in place of the technological all-plastic hockey puck marvel of the first release. The smell was actually more jarring and bombastic than what Kenneth Cole New York Men had mustered, and mixed a divergent group of top notes with a mostly-synthetic base that tried to replicate the ambergris floral affairs of Creed but on a dollar store budget with a healthy helping of olfactive LSD to make you "understand" what was going on. Young guys ate it up, as the riotous opening and sheer dry down managed to communicate "let's party" and "I have a stable job" all in the same sentence, as Kenneth Cole was Macy's tier at best, but by decade's end would be the darling of Walmart and Targets everywhere. I admit that it holds a special place for me, but objectively speaking, Kenneth Cole Black is the best of the worst genre to emerge in the last 3 decades, for what it's worth.

Kenneth Cole Black opens with a rush of tart ozone and mandarin, spicy ginger, and cool mint. Cole calls the mint note "watermint" but I have no idea what the eggheads were thinking with that name so let's just call it normal mint and be done with it. Cool mint, warm spice, and a very-2000's ozonic citrus note present a love-or-hate accord that I feel most had to "be there" to really appreciate. Kenneth Cole fragrances are about as generational as old Halston ones are for the guys who loved them. For everyone else, this is an exercise in confusing abstraction that might prove interesting enough for a deeper look and a full-bottle purchase at some point for the stalwart or morbidly curious. The heart gets even more contrived with some generic white florals dressed up as a "lotus flower" note, with "cedar leaves", nutmeg, vetiver and norlimbanol posing as "incense smoke". Kenneth Cole must have been stealing ideas from Calvin Klein's fantasy fragrance notes playbook with this one, but it ends well enough with musk, violet, a suede leather note, and an early form of synthetic ambergris from timberol that's saltier and earthier -ironically closer to real ambergris- than modern ambroxide that often goes under the trade name of "ambroxan" (the violet + incense + ambergris vibe bringing it closer to BdC than anything else). We get a cacophony in the beginning, then dusty and arid floral bouquets over phoney ambergris and musk in the base, going from night club to drawing room in 60 seconds. There's comparisons all over the map for the drydown from Dior Fahrenheit (1988) to something like Creed Millésime Impérial (1995) but it's closest to a forerunner for Bleu de Chanel (2010). Granted, Kenneth Cole Black has the sophistication of neither, but it is far more energetic, exciting, and successful in channeling that spontaneous youth feeling while retaining some class, at least the youth of the new millennium thirsty for distinction beyond the drab 90's or overbearing 80's. Wear time is sadly pretty short at about 6 hours, and sillage is pretty moderate, but something like this can be re-applied without much trouble since it has become dirt-cheap in the years since it's unveiling. I'd recommend Kenneth Cole Black if you want something that can serve in all but the coldest weather, and pull all sorts of duty outside maybe the office space, and at it's most primitive, Black is a synthetic dandy floral lead with conflicting hot and cold elements. This is a pretty wild ride but not for somebody looking for natural fragrances with a lot of note separation.

The mint-meets-spice overtones laid upon a scary sharp orange note are enough to make or break you in the opening moments, and from there it descends into a nightmare future mockery of old-world styles that is neither very "black" nor particularly masculine. The early 2000's were also the era of the "metrosexual", or more succinctly, the heterosexual male borrowing style and mannerisms facetiously from the gay community, so Kenneth Cole Black's equally-facetious style fits in with that mindset perfectly. Kenneth Cole Black miraculously became the best-seller and endured well enough for the house to continue making sharp citric wonderbombs throughout the 2000's, including the aquatic Kenneth Cole Reaction (2004), the rebooted eponymous fragrance of Kenneth Cole Signature (2005), and Kenneth Cole RSVP (2006), which would see woodsy semi-oriental tones mixed in to soften things up. Much after that, Kenneth Cole left loudness behind and fell in line with other mid-tier designers, dooming itself to being mediocre clearance rack fodder. Even Axe tried copying this with their Axe lab (2008) release, the first legitimate eau de toilette from them that was essentially a rounder/muskier version of Kenneth Cole Black. Competent designer favorite Harry Freemont and the one-hit-wonder Sabine de Tscharner would epitomize loud and tacky Kenneth Cole style with this scent (but without the house grapefruit top of others), and Kenneth Cole Vintage Black (2010) was offered up for folks wanting to graduate into a more discreet scent with the same dynamics. Ozonics were the most groan-worthy thing to emerge from the late 90's and early 2000's, but I'd take them over most of the sweet boring Iso E super cashmere wood juices of 2005-2010, until the richer ambroxan citruses took over thanks to Chanel. Kenneth Cole even brought Harry Freemont back to make a non-ozonic updated version of Kenneth Cole Black with Black Bold (2016), proving that the core itself was solid enough to stand without its most-controversial elements. This isn't for everyone, but should be easy enough to sample, as Testers still haunt stores like Ulta. For fans of flamboyant, attention-seeking nightlife scents that don't feel very "dudebro" and aren't very sweet, Kenneth Cole Black might be a nice cheap option. If you're going to have only one example of this contrived period in perfume history, Kenneth Cole Black is for you. Thumbs up, but try before buying!
16th December, 2018 (last edited: 23rd August, 2020)
This is a "meh," from me.

It's fresh with a dash of spice.
A very generic, inoffensive fragrance.
The thing is, even though it's a bit more higher quality smelling than Claiborne's line of men's fragrances ie Curve, Mambo, Bora Bora, it's too synthetic and, despite it's fresh nature, a bit cloying.

I think this would make a decent office scent, but it's not that fun to wear.
02nd November, 2018
This is certainly not a perfect fragrance, but I really, really like it. Kenneth Cole Black is good. I'm not sure what it's good at, exactly, but I'm still impressed for $35 (or less) at a department store. I typically despise fragrances that are overly synthetic, but while this one is synthetic it doesn't bother me at all. Quite the opposite - I can't stop smelling it. It's hard to over-apply with this stuff, and that's actually one of its downsides - the projection is weak. So is the longevity.

Watermint? What the heck is that? Maybe it's the ingredient that keeps this from smelling like a mall-scent mess. To me, it's so much better than typical designer fragrances. It's fresh, watery, spicy, and ultimately pleasant. Not black, and probably not a compliment magnet because it's too middle-of-the-road. I don't care. I love how I smell when I wear this. I sought it out right away after running through a bottle.

However, I have had two very different bottles. My first bottle came with a sprayer, and that bottle was spicy. The other came with a stopper cap, and this bottle is sweeter, with more flower. I miss the spicy bottle, because it was way more interesting. The sweet batch is too light. I honestly don't know which bottle was made more recently - I swiped the stopper bottle from my dad after my other ran out, but he might have bought his before I bought mine. Look for the spray bottle.

Thumbs up for the spicy bottle. So enjoyable.
14th August, 2018
I think the notes listing and recent reviews have nailed this mixture's elements pretty well. I will comment more generally.

Black has a very common modern aqua air about it. However, it is amazingly powerful by modern standards and it does have a nicely blended late appearing blackish incense note that stands it apart from the modern norm. Somehow I always manage to spray on too much of this potent scent, as it is so light and inviting up front. I better put 1 or 2 marks on this bottle, which would be a reasonable number of sprays. 3 is too much and alas my wife now does not like this one.

I still generally like it; but, the darkish midpoint and ending can be an irritant. It lasts very well too. A great value given its very reasonable price and potency. 1 bottle should last a very long time when applied correctly.
07th May, 2018
Safe generic mandarin orange freshie. Last longer than most of my other fresh scents. $35 for a 100ml @ Ross. Not bad not great.
07th March, 2017
This is a rather generic middle of the road scent... but what else would you get from a mass produced mainstream designer fragrance. It does have a solid opening but as you go along for the ride through the mid and base it turns synthetic and boring. Shouldn't offend and the online price is solid.
26th July, 2016

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