Arden Men - Sandalwood fragrance notes

  • Head

    • Lavender, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Lemon
  • Heart

    • Geranium, Sandal, Basil, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Vetiver
  • Base

    • Treemoss, Amber, Musk, Opopanax, Labdanum, Tonka

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Latest Reviews of Arden Men - Sandalwood

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A classic rendition of sandalwood in the abstract, Arden Men Sandalwood, at least in the older version that I own (I can't speak for the most recent formulations before its discontinuation), feels very much like an aromatic of the era, like Rochas Moustache, YSL Pour Homme, Gentleman Givenchy, and the like, that is built around a core of sandalwood. This is not one that highlights sandalwood in the forefront of the composition, but is present throughout the development and especially in the dry down as the backbone.

Actually, this showcases the synergy that can come from lavender paired with sandalwood, as the former is prevalent all the way into its heart, with usual suspects of an aromatic accompanying it, so much that one might almost wonder where the sandalwood at all. However, it reveals itself as a buttery warmth over time, with an especially intriguing point about an hour in where there's interplay with clary sage. This unique stage really resonates with me and I always look forward to this; there is something wistful about it, even though it's mid-century futurism/optimism must have been perceived as the "fresh, clean, and put together" during its heyday.

The sandalwood blooms more over time with musks and moss, and it becomes very evident that this is very much an ode: the lingering skin scent is truly terrific.
10th March 2022

The vintage Arden Sandalwood begins with a soapy blast of lavender, supported by a dry clary sage/geranium note. A bit of bergamot and lemon around the edges. Not a whiff of sandalwood in olfactory sight. As such it is quite dry, refined and sophisticated. Had it been named Lavender instead of Sandalwood, I'd proclaim it an immediate hit.

But wait, there must be more. There are all those base notes: Cedar, Patchouli, Vetiver, Moss, Amber, Musk, Tonka, Labdanum, Opoponax, not to mention Sandalwood itself. Where are they?

Patience. They do eventually emerge, but all in jumble – a pleasant one, albeit, but I don't detect the single note of sandalwood anywhere. The base notes simply support and deepen the lavender. As such it is a fine fougere, fragrant and subtle. It just needed a name change to bring it up to snuff.

3rd May 2019

Elizabeth Arden was locked in a 3-way battle royale with Estée Lauder and Charles Revson (Revlon) throughout the mid 20th century, as all three American cosmetic companies vied for the same upper mid-level market segment that shopped at places like Macy's, Dillard's, Filene's, Hecht's, and Marshall Field's throughout the postwar middle-class boom, and subsequent department store boom. During all this infighting, Arden decided she should enter men's toiletries; this was an area left to barbershops or a growing number of chemist brands like Mennen, Avon, and Shulton; but since fashion houses like Fath, Rochas, and Chanel were doing it, Arden should too. Arden would be the first to market among the big 3 US cosmetic brands with a slew of varieties under the "Arden for Men" division between 1956-1957; these went under names like Citruswood, Eau de Cologne Traditionale, Sandalwood, Wild Wood, Oakwood, Green Wood, and No. 450. Of these, it seems only Arden for Men Sandalwood (1957) would endure to see the 21st century (although not for long). Elizabeth Arden would never make another masculine fragrance under her own eponymous line again, going the route of buying or licensing designer or celebrity brands in need of Arden's impressive logistics to release their own fragrance lines. Meanwhile, Revlon and Lauder would pop off with their own men's toiletries lines, although with just one fragrance apiece for them to start. The attempt at a comprehensive range was likely overwhelming for US guys mid-century, as they weren't even used to wearing scent at all, let alone on a regular basis. Arden bombarding them with a half-dozen options probably just made them cling harder to their Mennen Skin Bracer (1931), which was doubling as "cologne" for US men in many places; Lanvin too would make this mistake with the "Monsieur Lanvin" range.

People in the today's modern world of niche single-note devotions and pure realistic representations of single subjects need to be warned that this isn't going to be that. Yes, Arden for Men Sandalwood does contain some Mysore sandalwood in the base, because to not have any at all would be just asking for a thrashing; but modern noses knowledgeable of what real Mysore oil smells like in the raw (or any number of other sandalwood sources), will likely furrow an eyebrow and ask why this doesn't smell like sandalwood. In that sense, I suppose this is a bit like the Apple Jacks cereal of sandalwood fragrances, in that it contains a small modicum of the subject material, but a whole lot of other stuff too. In the end, you can find it if you squint real hard, but only the creaminess really avails itself to the nose as part of the chypre base. What we have here otherwise is a bone-dry aromatic chypre that is properly masculine and devoid of any softness just how the square-jawed clean-shaven greased-hair ubermench of American exceptionalism (read: toxic masculinity) wanted it. You get bergamot, clary sage, and a bit of lavender right off the bat, while there's also a very compressed geranium and vetiver combo in the heart alongside what sandalwood is here to provide the "sandalwood" creamy texture, even if most of the "woodiness" is actually handled by oakmoss and cedar in the base. A pasty labdanum is touched by opoponax and a bit patchouli for depth, but the musk is not terribly animalic here at all. Instead you get processed take on the sandalwood accord, much like how an all-beef hot dog is very much a a processed interpretation of the meat it's mostly made of, as opposed to a steak. Wear time is up to 10 hours, and sillage is close because American men didn't want loud "perfumey" fragrance then. Best use is up to you, as this is so beyond modern context that I have no words.

Arden for Men Sandalwood likely endured because it focused on something exotic yet also familiar: sandalwood. It had become established that sandalwood was something aromatic that men liked, and could trust not to smell "pretty" like women's perfume (although real uncut sandalwood is inarguably gorgeous and complex), plus wasn't something an American guy could just sniff in his backyard like "oakwood". Arden for Men Sandalwood smells to me like a brighter, more linear, and less-spicy take on something conjured much earlier in the century by The Crown Perfumery with Sumare (1924). Maybe at one point this could have been a cheap alternative to Sumare; but both fragrance have become quite the unicorns in today's regulation-strangled perfume market that has effectively turned all surviving discontinued fragrances into "niche 2.0", and this holds especially true if a fragrance mentions a rare raw material on the bottle like this one does. This extremely unsweet and ascetic aromatic chypre is about as much sandalwood as Sunny Delight is orange juice, but it is a lovely ode to the material with just enough familiarity to satisfy. Other wonder materials like real olibanum and oakmoss abound here anyway, so this is still far more quality than any modern sandalwood fragrance sold anywhere near the price point this one was (adjusted for inflation). These extremely humorless mid-century men's fragrances are such fun to wear anyway, and like Revlon's equally-stoic That Man (1958), Arden for Men Sandalwood just smells like something you wear to keep people at arm's length instead of to bring them closer. If you're fortunate enough to get your hands on some without selling a kidney, you may be in for a time-warp treat of no-nonsense "smell like a man" fragrance drier than TV sitcom from the same era. It doesn't get much more 50's than this! Thumbs up
25th December 2017
My current version (2007), while not a bad scent, has been an expensive loo freshener. Sharp, strong and not worth the effort if the primary interest is sandalwood.
22nd June 2016
Vintage Arden Men Sandalwood was an amazing fragrance--refined, masculine, old-school in the best way and really rather sexy. Given the numerous notes, this is clearly not a single note sandalwood fragrance. Sandalwood is there throughout, but it is sandalwood in the abstract. Sandalwood all dressed up in a fine man's cologne. It is so finely tuned, so balanced between exotic and expected, staid and sexy, traditional and progressive (for its time) that the only other scent I can compare it to is the excellent Dunhill for Men form 1934. They both smell of well dressed, well heeled, well appointed gentlemen and are timeless, despite both being so old school in their structure. I am told that the reformulation is a travesty and I cannot bring myself to smell it for fear of being devastated. Possibly the best thing from this house, along with the late, great woman's scent Bluegrass.
4th February 2015
It's OK I bought this looking to explore sandalwood as a single note. Unfortunately, this is as related to sandalwood as fettuccine alfredo is to Italy. What you get instead is a pretty standard fare, generic old school edc. It's light, barbershop opening, then a simple woods and spice combo that relies on your skin's natural musk to carry it along...which suggests it would be a hit on the right skin, just not mine I use my bottle to add that certain old school flair to modern day frags that are too 'today' for their own good. Cool Water Deep plus this is a beauty I find hard to resist. Pros: Defines old school, good reference scentCons: Where is the sandalwood?
30th June 2013
Show all 25 Reviews of Arden Men - Sandalwood by Elizabeth Arden