No. 88 fragrance notes

  • Head

    • Bergamot, Geranium
  • Heart

    • Rose Otto, Cassie, Frangipani
  • Base

    • Vetiver, Sandalwood

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Latest Reviews of No. 88

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No. 88 by Czech & Speake (1981) is the house-founding original fragrance that moved the brand into scent after being a bathfitter for years. This fragrance line was originally introduced as room scent and toiletries line to accompany the brand's traditional Victorian-style bath fittings, but then the scent side of things sort of took on a life of its own, sitting equally alongside the bathfitting side of the business oft-forgot (or not even known) by fragrance enthusiasts. With the success of No. 88, perfumer John Steven would eventually become a mainstay for Czech & Speake, then would be contracted to do fragrances for other niche UK fragrance houses, most recently doing work the influencer-owned Naughton & Wilson, spearheaded by Dan "MrSmelly" Wilson. Here with No. 88, we see a cologne that really isn't in terms of its immense strength; but then again it's sort of the nature of British-based fragrances using the "cologne" nomenclature to not really be cologne in sense we'd think of with light mostly-citrus splashes from France or Germany. An eau de parfum variant also exists, but this review does not cover the differences between it and the cologne.

Instead, we get a sharp, woody, incense-driven rose, sandalwood, and frangipani scent that ends up feeling very close to early work from William Penhaligon or George Francis WIlliam Trumper, despite the brand's insistence that No. 88 in fact moves away from typical English scent traditions. Maybe the traditions of 1981 didn't have English gentlemen smelling of rose, but they certainly did in 1881. In any case, No. 88 would not become anywhere near as well-known compared to other 1981 releases like Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (1981) or Chanel Antaeus (1981) and the reason for that is the truly niche nature of Czech and Speake themselves, even though they are almost a household brand among UK fragrance aficionados. Folks in the United States would have a similar relationship to C.O Bigelow or Caswell-Massey in that regard, while the rest of the world more or less scratches their heads at the name. The dry bergamot and rose are joined by metallic geranium and the sandalwood pairs in a somewhat powdery way similar to Zizanie de Fragonard (1932), until the incense and vetiver really ground the stuff. As mentioned above, performance is very unlike a cologne, with powerful projection and long-lasting scent that will take you well into the day.

The black very-Victorian bottle and graphics imparts this cologne with a gothic aesthetic, the dense floral chypres and floral fougères of the decade all seemingly having elements of this "seriousness" and "melodrama" in their nature. By the end of the 80's, everyone from Paco Rabanne to Jacques Bogart were picking up what Czech & Speake had put down at the beginning of the era, although you can also say Van Cleef & Arpels had arguably beaten them to the punch anyway with their self-titled pour Homme scent three years earlier. In any case, No. 88 isn't explicitly gendered so anyone can really wear it, I just think that with the trend towards big aldehyde tuberose bombs and swirling animalic rose leathers in the 80's, guys were going to find this first over ladies. Further on down, sweet and watery things began to dominate the fragrance spaces, so the "darkness" this scent is known to possess probably got inferred, there again reinforced by the bottle. A "man's rose" however, this scent is not. Opulent stuff to be sure, but a bit tough to import and expensive to boot. The brand insists not everyone "should" wear their fragrances, and this stuff is proof of that. Thumbs up
16th July 2023
It is a chilly, rainy, grey late October morning, my first of the season where I am wearing the moccasin slippers, and a cup of coffee couldn't be any more welcoming. I reached for no 88, because it just felt like the right thing to do. It sprays on deep, dark, and delicious, a dense and brooding rose with a somewhat sharp and minty geranium immediately greeting you, with bergamot just lifting it enough so that it isn't a vortex. I am enchanted right away, as a contrast of refined soapy and earthy underbelly is apparent soon afterwards, with this the distinct fragrance of black locust blossoms in full bloom, on the edge of ripeness.

I have my window open to let the cool autumn air in, and no 88 really seems enhanced by this draft coming through, stirring and austere. I chose some shoegazer sounds for my music soundtrack (Slowdive, Auburn Lull), and I have sips of my coffee. This one is really a charmer, sort of an incantation. Over time, there is a dusty wistful vibe, as the sandalwood and vetiver become more pronounced, but the rose, geranium, and florals, they linger, they have not evaporated, the persistence is reassuring, with the only difference being that they have a bit more of incense-like quality, impressionistic and haunting.

No. 88 is an utter delight.
9th March 2022

Despite No. 88's reputation as a "dark" scent (mostly a misconception due to its unique black bottle), No. 88 is a masterfully crafted floral-chypre with a fougere structure, that is both long-lasting and projects very well for the best part of the day.

The cologne version in its current form comes across as quite powdery and packed full of geranium. The rose and woods play a supporting role here. In the more recent Eau de Parfum, the geranium and powdery notes are toned down and allow the rose and woods to come to the front much more. This is reminiscent of the vintage version and it results in a much smoother fragrance overall. Both versions have a touch of sweetness due to the frangipani. To me the cologne is a like, whereas the EdP is a love.

From experience, the Cologne works well in warmer weather - the opening freshness from the bergamot and accompanying florals (geranium and rose) make for a welcome change to the traditional citrus-chypre warm weather scent. Conversely, the new Eau de Parfum works well in the cooler months due to the more pronounced woods, but either can be worn so long as they are used in sensible quantities.

All in all, a unique floral-chypre fougere, centred around rose, with a classy character that is totally unisex.
24th February 2021
This was a pleasant surprise. I like male rose fragrances, but some of them can be pretty challenging. No. 88 is perhaps the best one I've tried so far. I also like Mad Hat Scents Rosa Resin a lot as well, but Czech & Speake's No. 88 is also excellent! This starts out with the rose and geranium, but I get a strong overall clove vibe with this fragrance that I really love. This actually smells something like Sen Sen to me, or it gives me a scent memory of what I remember Sen Sen smelling like, but it was a licorice and anise smell, not clove. Come to think of it, No. 88 has a star anise vibe like the fringes of Rive Gauche Pour Homme. Don't get me wrong, No. 88 doesn't smell like Rive Gauche Pour Homme per se, but I believe there is a star anise presence of something coming off of No. 88 like RGPH has. This is a wonderful fragrance in my opinion and I think it's one I could become even more fond of over time. One of my favorite so far from the British gentleman genre. Well done Czech & Speake!
24th January 2019
This is somewhat intoxicating but sinister, as if it could be the last scent you remember before you die. It's so heavy and humid it's claustrophobic. It seems like a deceiver, a beautiful siren luring you to death. Too much of everything. A heavy jungle scent that lures you inside vines of decadent roses until the vines wrap around you and squeeze out all the life. Suffocating.
27th May 2018
No. 88 was the object of one of Turin & Sanchez's most apposite reviews in The Guide, described as something like "instant Victoriana", if memory serves. And that is spot on: I can see this being worn by Pip and the other gents in Great Expectations and other literature set in that era. It's the instant masculine take on florals that gives off this characteristic Gothic vibe. As the scent progresses, there is a slight almondy influence which adds sweetness but never detracts from the freshness of the whole. And the base carries on in the same vein, with vetiver and sandalwood working in harmony to create a dry-sweet accord. Although listed as an EDC, this has much better longevity on me than the other C&S colognes. Direct rivals are likely to be Floris' No. 89, Trumper's Eucris, perhaps something like Encre Noire for its sheer darkness, and perhaps Richard James for that well-healed English thing. This is good, though, and after two days on skin I can easily imagine dropping money on it.
3rd May 2018
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