Aramis (1982)

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About JHL by Aramis

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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.

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  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of JHL by Aramis

There are 79 reviews of JHL by Aramis.

Aramis JHL (1982) has a bit of a story to it, and is also likely among the rarer of the old Aramis catalog scents, in that it was originally created as a bespoke fragrance for Estée Lauder's husband and then given a limited release to the public afterward. JHL had much the same market placement as Estée Lauder's bespoke fragrance had upon release to the public, that fragrance being Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973), and carried a slightly higher price tag to boot. Factor in the exclusivity and subsequent rarity of the original JHL when discontinued, and the fact that for this reason it became the first among the Aramis Gentlemen's Collection re-issues to sell out, and you can see why the stuff has a bit of a mythic allure to it among vintage purists or collectors. JHL stands for "Joseph Harold Lauder", and was subtitled with "Custom Blended Cologne" upon intial release, something that would be repeated on the label for the Aramis Gentlemen's Collection re-issue. The story goes that Mr. Lauder really liked Cinnabar by Estée Lauder (1978), as his wife was actually wearing it around him, and that he liked it enough to wear if only it wasn't a women's perfume (gotta love those hard-coded gender norms). Estée then sought out to "custom blend" Joseph a version he could comfortably wear; IFF perfumer Josphine Catapano had made the original just like she had made Youth Dew (1953) to launch Lauder into perfumes decades before, and she wasn't able to fully commit in retooling her work for Estée; so Mrs. Lauder sat in with Bernard Chant (who had by then becomes a master of swapping genders on fragrances) to collectively tinker until JHL was born.

Those who know Cinnabar will probably remember most that it was hot on the heels of Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (1977) as a "new style" oriental that eschewed powdery notes for heavy spices and ambery musks; in that way JHL is really no different, and just a "masculine" adaptation thereof. There is a garbage pail worth of notes to this fragrance, and most of them you will not pick up, so don't get too hung up on that. The opening is very sweet but eschews some of the fruit notes of Cinnabar to stick with cloves and orange oil instead, making a very classic early 20th century amber perfume vibe like Dana Tabu (1932). A bit of aldehydes are followed with cinnamon, carnation, and musky ylang-ylang to my nose, with the clove stepping aside as an ancillary bay rum type vibe that congeals with the gummy amber showing up later. Jasmine indole and rose play a role here similar to things like Avon Cordovan (1982) or the later Giorgio Beverly Hills Red for Men (1992), and finally things start moving into the ambery benzoin base. Sandalwood, patchouli, balsam fir, oakmoss, nitromusks, tonka, and vanilla finish off JHL, and the whole thing reeks of smoker's jacket and penny loafers. I gather this was the late Joseph Harold Lauder's speed, very much a Hugh Hefner in taste if not in predilection for silicone-breasted porn starlets, with fine arts and opera on his palette alongside a continental lifestyle. Mostly, this is Cinnabar with muted spices, less aldehydes, and no fruit, plus feels like a vague precursor to the more elegant Obsession by Calvin Klein (1985) and Obsession for Men (1986). Wear time is good at 8 hours, with medium sillage and best used in winter or for cozy evenings.

As a fascinating forerunner to the big-boned men's orientals of the 80's, and particularly the aforementioned genre-defining Obsession for Men, JHL is good stuff for a collector with deep enough pockets to seek it out. Among the 6 fragrances chosen for re-issue in 2009 as part of the Aramis Gentlemen's Collection, this one is actually my least favorite; so when prices started going bonkers on even the re-issued version of JHL, I was not alarmed at all. When I want to smell of something like this, I always reach for Obsession or Opium pour Homme (1995), sometimes even Jacques Fath pour L'Homme (1998), but never this one. I think it's way the gummy amber and benzoin interacts with the musky indoles and spiced oranges of the scent that makes it overall just smell too much like the mid-century feminine ambers it seeks to stand apart from, and I'd rather just reach for one of them because they commit to their chosen path more clearly. For all the fuss over trying to make a version of Cinnabar different and "manly" enough for the husband to wear, Estée Lauder really just made "Cinnabar Part II", which itself was already "Opium Part II"; so in essence, all she really did was make "Opium Part II and a Half" or something. JHL is a fine men's oriental amber, and a rare one too boot; not just because it was a rare style for a men's fragrance at the time, but also because it's fairly uncompromising in its delivery of the genre style. Unfortunately, Mr. Lauder would pass away a year after JHL's release, so it unintentionally became in memoriam of him too. Thumbs up
Dec 27, 2017

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.
Dec 13, 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.
Dec 12, 2017

champhorated spicy oriental slightly reminiscent of Krizia Moods Uomo, good performer!
Nov 6, 2017

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.
Mar 25, 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.
Dec 3, 2016

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