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Wild Gardener

Who wants to be Boss?

Rating: 2 votes, 3.00 average.
Sometimes life proceeds through conflict. According to the philosopher Hegel this happens when a force reacts with its opposite, and then - from out of the resulting conflict - something better is created. To put it in his terminology, thesis plus antithesis leads to synthesis - on a higher level.

A good example comes from a period exactly one hundred years ago when two of the greatest perfumers were at the height of their powers. When Jacques Guerlain smelled his rival's ground breaking Chypre he didn't, at first, know what to do. The story is that one day he took some of the new peach aldehyde he'd been experimenting with and added a dash to some Chypre, just to see what would happen ... many will already know how the story ends.

In this scenario Coty's Chypre was the original idea - the thesis, C14 was the antithesis - a new molecule with the potential to disrupt the status quo, and the resulting synthesis was Mitsouko (1919) an acknowledged masterpiece, and certainly on a higher level than the original - but flawed Chypre.

Sometimes however, attempts to improve on an original form don't come up with anything new, as was the case with Boss Number One. Boss No.1 is described as an aromatic fougère by Fragrantica, and on their webpage Boss make it look like a spicy oriental, containing as it does "nutmeg, cardamom, patchouli, sandal and balsamic accords." By my own assessment it's a bitter-sweet aromatic oriental, built on a spine of dry resins, with powdery, herbal and spicy facets. It also tends to go salty in the drydown.

Boss Number One arrived on the scene in 1985, and not long after that two other works appeared in the same vein, Obsession for Men and Zino Davidoff. These two weren't - as it were - forged by Hegelian synthesis from Boss No.1 however; quite the opposite. Instead of disrupting Boss' profile with a radically new element they simply divided it in two, OfM taking one side and Zino the other.

Obsession for Men increased Boss No.1's existing powdery sweetness by several orders of magnitude. This results in a soft, pillowy profile - which is so full of sweet nothings it almost hides the base. Zino, on the other hand, stripped out the residual powder and then massively boosted the aromatics with rosewood. This, with the help of some herbals, has chiselled out a hard, flat, and sour profile which has a totally opposite character to OfM.

These three oriental fougères use more or less the same palette of materials, but despite this, the differences between them are striking - especially between Obsession for Men and the other two. Or at least it seems that way on the surface. But if one examines them closely, it's evident that Zino and Obsession for Men are little more than realignments in perfumery space of the elements of Boss Number One, with very little added and almost nothing taken away.

In the light of this, it's clear that OfM and Zino weren't products of creative conflict at all; they had no antithetical vision to No1 and thus could bring nothing new to the table. Once Pierre Wargyne had lead the way with Boss, others were content to follow, but their works amounted to little more than commentaries on his original creation.

Updated 1st December 2020 at 07:34 PM by Wild Gardener



  1. ClockworkAlice's Avatar
    This was an interesting and informative read, thank you!
  2. Wild Gardener's Avatar
    Thanks for your comment.
    You may be interested to know I have reworked the conclusion.


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