If we except the skills of the one who uses it, the most important part of a sword is its blade. Its hilt and scabbard can be exquisite pieces of craftsmanship, often adorned with precious metals and gems, but it's always the least adorned part, its blade, that gets the work done. And if anyone is wandering about what is sword talk doing in a perfume review, Vetiver Royal Bourbon is like mounting a very old and battle proven blade on a new housing. A century old fragrance launched anew, with what seems to be lots of respect to its ancestry. And this is like something that does not happen every day in people's lives. Like something that is exceptional enough to be mentioned elaborately and in great detail. Something like being unlucky enough to fall from atop a juniper tree and hit every single branch on your way down. But also being lucky enough, to land on a thick layer of vetiver grass, and thus escape your fall unscathed. And there you'll doff your leather gloves and light up your pipe and think. Cause if there's something that this curio engenders more than anything else, it's thoughts.
Thoughts like "How dare they?"
Thoughts like "Are they nuts?"
Thoughts like "Didn't they know it was 2014?"
And all that stuff which come to mind upon encountering such an oddity during the second decade of the 21st century. But despite banging its own drum while walking a very lonely path, Vetiver Royal Bourbon has actually a lot of things to say.
This little weirdo is a very-very interesting case. Very bitter, very earthy, very herbal and very unique. Oh, and very challenging to wear too. To my silly nose, it smells like hot stones. But not hot because of being under a scorching sun for too long, but hot because this castle was burned during a siege.
I don't know whether it's the fact that I have not smelled it for many years, but I'm under the impression that Vetiver Royal Bourbon is very similar with vintage Daniel Hechter's Caractere. At first, this thought seemed like it had no grounds at all, since the two fragrances only share a couple of notes. But then came the epiphany. Most of Vetiver Royal Bourbon's notes are somewhat neighbouring the ones of this forgotten relic from the late '80s.
-Artemisia instead of vetiver.
-Fir instead of juniper.
-Amber instead of styrax.
-Sage instead of thyme.
-Basil instead of mint.
With the mystery solved, I relished the thought of how much I loved Caractere back in the day, cause it smelled nothing like anything else. So, the verdict here could not be any different. I love Vetiver Royal Bourbon too. I like bizzare scents, and this one is surely of the kind that will raise the "What the hell is that smell?" question. A lot. And if it wasn't so damn pricy, I could vision myself buying two or three bottles just in case it's discontinued. Finally, and despite that this may sound a bit out of the blue, I'll finish this review the way I started it. With swords. So, since I take it that Caractere doesn't ring a bell to at least 50% of the readers, I'll crown Vetiver Royal Bourbon as the Yatagan of our time. Not based that much on sheer similarity, but on being heavy, sharp and sexy to the nth degree...
There was a very famous bank robber in Greece during the '70s, who used to enter the robbed-to-be bank with a sawed-off unloaded shotgun hidden inside a posy of sword lillies. And yes, bank robbers can achieve rock star status, cause banks, directed by vampires in expensive suits, are not exactly the most popular establishments. He also used to give the flowers to the ladies working in the bank, before running away with the money.
He got caught, escaped prison, flew to another continent, got caught again, and during his deportation flight he gifted fragrances bought in the duty-free shop to every hostess on board, leaving them wondering whether he was a shipowner or an oilman. Or both.
He died at the age of 35, following the "live fast, die young" motto to a tee.
Every time I spray some of this short-lived quirky little gem on me, I feel like I'm ready to enter a bank along with him and run with the money.
And on a sunny, yet frigid January morning some years ago, vintage Insensé on a paper strip was one of the two best things I've ever smelled in my life.
Having the guts to do something just because you can, will always be a solid example of insolence yelled in the face of norms and poise. Insensé came and went unnoticed, scorned by the defenders of uber masculine fragrances, for it smelled like walking in a forest in early spring or late winter, while holding a bunch of blue flowers in one hand. The fact that a rifle was in the other didn't seem to be in its favour. All the more that it was not there for hunting.
A brave little soul, which left its gentle mark by the pen, in a world echoing with the clang of swords and the roar of faddish waves. And despite its failure to smoothly conquer it, it will always be acknowledged for its gallantry and whim.
For it did. And they didn't...
Unique? Yes. Bizarre? Absolutely. Wearable? It depends. I'm using incense sticks for a couple of decades now, but I don't like incense fragrances very much. First of all I think there's a huge vagueness in defining what an incense note is, because there are literally hundreds of different "incense" scents out there. In Christianity "incense" is mainly associated with myrrh and olibanum, while in Buddhism it's associated with more exotic substances, like sandalwood and benzoin. Not to mention the multifariousnees of incense sticks, which come in virtually every scent imagined. And as is the case with anything coming in a great variety, our subjective point of view dictates that there are specimens to love and specimens to hate. But I take it that "incense" in perfumery usually means a church-like olfactory quality, cause churches and temples are usually the places where this kind of smell is more likely to be encountered. But despite the fact that an Eastern Orthodox church and a Buddhist temple smell nothing alike, I'll take it for granted that La Liturgie des Heures is an incense fragrance the way such an one is perceived by Christians. All the more that it displays myrrh and olibanum amongst its notes.
However, there's no way I'll follow the "Why would someone want to smell like this?" cliche. Just because! As Latin wisdom has put it centuries ago, "De gustibus non est disputandum." Because the one to whom this question is addressed, could very easily reverse it and ask the one who asks it the very same thing about her/his favourite fragrance. "Why would someone want to smell like a cupcake?". And to be perfectly honest, I never liked smelling like food, thus incense fragrances have a clear lead against gourmands in my book.
Now, if Avignon or Cardinal smells like Bernardo Gui's religious habit in "The Name of the Rose", then I imagine that La Liturgie des Heures is the way Adso's of Melk robes smelled like. Pious, yes, but not yet pious enough to have every hint of mirth exiled in the purgatorial fires. It's the difference between an old, cantankerous and cold-hearted bishop, probably disappointed that the world does not understand his "rightfulness" and a young and sanguine monk, who still thinks he can make a difference. This doesn't mean that La Liturgie des Heures is a joyous and playful fragrance. God forbid! It just means that this aspiring novice enjoys equally delving profoundly into the ancient manuscripts in the monastery and quaffing a couple of pints in the local tavern. Walking the dense coniferous forests surrounding both in the meantime, and taking a nap on the ground every once in a while.
Oh, and for those who expected a Sean Connery association to be included, this emblematic Scotsman will always be beyond genres and classifications, thus Guerlain's Jicky will always do the trick for him. Monkish or not.
I don't know about you, but for me the most mysterious and enthralling place in the house I grew up, was always my mother's chiffonier. Everything on it looked like it came straight from a fairy tale, or from the far-flung palaces of the Far East. Especially the small collection of her perfumes. I was totally convinced there was a genie living in one of the bottles, waiting to grant my wish and make me a grown-up in no time. All I had to do was finding out in which one it dwelled. So one of my most daredevil antics was to secretly infiltrate my parents' bedroom and dab myself with whatever was lying within my reach. My "commando" tacticts were of course immediately exposed upon exiting the room, cause the monsters my mother was keeping in there were traitorous enough to give me away every single time.
My mother was always giving me funny looks after each accomplished mission, but I fancied they were about my glasses being dirty or my hair being uncombed.
Until one accursed Saturday evening, a huge 240ml splash bottle of Givenchy III decided it had enough of abuse, and tried to kill itself by falling from my hands. It failed. I dont know if you've ever handled such a bottle, but rest assured its glass is thick enough to stop a bullet. My mother came flying upon hearing the thud and found me aghast, with the golden stopper still in my hand, watching half of the golden soul of Givenchy III escaping its body and speading on the floor. The other half was already spilled on my clothes. Although I was sure a legendary chiding was seconds away from being yelled at poor me, she didn't say a word. What she did however, was leaving me with the perfume reeking clothes on for the rest of the weekend. Till Sunday night I was 1000% sure that I would prefer having my 8 years old butt kicked and be spared the olfactory torture. It felt like I was tied for ages with mossy ropes to an oak, while green devils wearing gardenia leis were frenziedly dancing all around me, poking me with pointy sandalwood sticks and throwing orris roots (with all the dirt still attached) on my face. I was seriously pondering over begging my mother for a beating in exchange of a bath. But not being stoical enough, I just asked for the bath. She replied "Why? I love the way you smell!".
Amnesty was finally granted at late Sunday night. I felt like a sinner been cleansed from all his wrongdoing. After she scrubbed me redder than a beetroot, my mother left me standing ecstatic in the bathtub and went to bring a towel. When she came back and approached me I threw my hands happily around her neck in order to kiss her and show her my gratitude. Imagine my horror upon realising that she was the one reeking with Givenchy III now...
Many years later I found a very old 60ml splash bottle of Givenchy III in a tiny backstreet shop. I guess the nice lady behind the desk is still wondering what my huge smile while buying it was all about...
My older brother is the most inconsistent fragrance user I've ever met. Wearing a roaring powerhouse in the morning and a syrupy bubblegummy squealer in the evening is something he finds perfectly normal and no contradicting at all. Thus, I was rather surprised the other day by smelling something quite intriguing and unusual on him. Something I didn't recognise and didn't have a clue about what it might be.
So I asked him: "What's this strange juice you're wearing bro?"
He replied: "Are you kidding me? It's Tabac for chrissakes!"
I took me less than a second to tell him: "This ain't Tabac!"
If any of you remembers an old Jim Beam commercial where Kevin Sorbo (before messing with Greek mythology) stepped into a bar in the middle of nowhere and asked for a shot of the said bourbon, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
What my brother was wearing was an exceptional masculine fragrance, but definitely not Tabac. It carried a very vibrant coriander note, which was peculiar to say the least since Tabac doesn't contain any. But since I dig coriander, I gave it two thumbs up and continued pestering him about having been cheated by bying a knockoff. However, the fact that the stuff was so good is one thing and pretending it was Tabac is another.
For some strange reason, the idea that Tabac might have been reformulated beyond recognition didn't cross my mind. So, in case it was some sort of misconception created by some strange happenstance, next morning I paid a visit to the family owned cosmetics shop where I usually delve for holy relics and asked if they had a Tabac sample. They did. But having just returned from a partial sweeping of their stockroom, they had also unearthed a 50ml splash bottle with "Made in West Germany" printed on its box. For people who dont't dig History or are simply too young to know what this means, it means the bottle predated 1990. Needless to say it landed in my bag in a heartbeat and, what's more, for a song. Paying a tribute to German perfumery, I kept happily whistling "Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss" all the way home.
Now, I parted ways with Tabac some time in the mid 90's, cause I (stupidly) thought it was time for me to move on and leave my coming of age scents behind. I've done the same thing with quite a few fragrances, and although we have become best buddies with most of them again, I'll never stop feel ashamed for that idiotic and traitorous decision of mine. All the more that some of them can't be found anymore for less than a fortnight's paycheck.
After a thorough wrist by wrist comparison, my initial take of the current Tabac version proved to be no wrong at all. It's a different fragrance. A very good one, but standing no chance to occupy a place in the front row of the shelf right under the "legendary" label where Tabac has been for so many years. The funny thing is that despite being a far cry from vintage Tabac, it's also a far cry from nearly everything else in the market today. An one of a kind reformulation of an one of a kind benchmark scent. And this deserves some credit, if nothing else. On the other hand (literally), vintage Tabac was exactly as I remembered it. Moving, comforting and spectacular. And I was more than happy for reintroducing ourselves anew.
I can't understand why Maurer & Wirtz had to launch a new version of Tabac in 2014 and make a fuss about it, since the version that was on the shelves till then had nothing to do with the one I remembered from the '80s. All the more that the newly launched version doesn't even feature a tobacco note if we're to believe its pyramid. I don't know about you, but if I ever bought a fragrance called "Rose" only to discover there's no damn rose in its composition, I'd certainly feel kinda ripped off.
Tabac was always a heroic scent to me. Something to be worn in the face of danger and turn its wearer invulnerable. Something like an assuaging smile, carrying the aura of a gallantry only found in tales anymore, since its defenders and champions are long gone from this world. Fortunately their scent is still lingering in hidden, dusty, scorned and unfashionable corners of our reality, reassuring us that our gone heroes will never ignore our distress calls and they will always be there in our time of need.
Let's talk some statistics for starters. The sentences in which the word "school" is usually included in Drakkar Noir's reviews are rougly divided between the ones having "high" and the ones having "old" in front of it. But since I'm pretty sure that all these "high schoolers" are in no case under 40 years old, both adjectives conclude one thing. Drakkar Noir is by no means a modern fragrance. It's something that trend followers would ironically call an old lady fragrance and amuse themselves for belittling it even further by not associating it with men.
Dear trend followers, unfortunately I cannot pass as an old lady, cause despite having quite long hair, it's nowhere near white. Perhaps my year old beard has some part in it too. You see, bearded ladies belong to the same place where Drakkar Noir belongs too, according to your refined taste and aesthetics. Freak shows...So how would you call a man in his mid-forties who's featuring all this hair and digs old fragrances named after scandinavian battleships? Wait! Did someone say "a bloody Viking berserker"? I guess I could pass as one.
So, let the battle hymns fill the air.
(You may start running for cover now trend followers.)
Enter Led Zeppelin.
(Another much despised "old lady" thing.)
"We come from the land of the ice and snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow."
It actually came 10 years after the first Drakkar had already landed on the fabled western shore. It sailed from river Seine, which does not make it a Viking thing exactly. But who cares? This one was black!
I guess a matching black sail decorated with a skull and crossbones was fluttering on its mast as well. Too early for that you said? Pirates you said? I agree, but I also beg to differ. Pirates were not looting only gold coins but golden ideas too. And this rather unrefined emblem had always made gold coins jump into treasure chests by themselves upon showing up on the horizon. Let alone that Vikings actually WERE pirates!
If its intention was to terrorise its opponents and make them flee, Drakkar Noir landed a serious blow without even raising its hand. As we speak, many otherwise hard-boiled dudes are fleeing like cockroaches taken by surprise when someone hits the lights by seeing this veteran warrior approaching.
It brought the same amount of mayhem with a Viking fleet landing in the middle of a raging battle, cause this is exactly what the '80s were. A huge battlefield where ferrocious warriors were exchanging devastating blows in order to prevail and get all the maidens.
Drakkar Noir came to avenge its fallen brother who had perished under the combined attacks of Italian lancers (Gucci pour Homme), English bowmen (Halston 1-12 and Z-14) and Spanish expatriated swordsmen (Paco Rabanne pour Homme). And it routed them single-handedly, conquering their realms and dethroning them from the Kingdom of Macho overnight. For some years it was the absolute ruler of everything, gloriously daunting in its black panoply and towering over every laughable attempt made by usurpers trying to succeed it. Then it was its turn to be conquered, but only by time, and not without making a legendary last stand which is still reverberating through fragrance lore.
If there ever was a fragrance smelling oily and arid in the same time, this was the one. Like sticking your head into an old abandoned well and smell the thick darkness. Cold, dry and slippery. Like a dormant volcano surrounded by glaciers, occasionally venting its ire through fumaroles.
And I say "was" cause the current version of Drakkar Noir smells like a splash bottle being forgotten open since 1982 and smelled again in 2015. The ghost of a scent. And even the most ghastly ghosts become less frightening after a few decades.
But in its heyday Drakkar Noir was turning dimly lit discos and clubs into much feared lairs, packed with predators waiting for any unsuspecting prey to be lured and pass their gates.
Other fragrances of the era like Azzaro pour Homme and its kin were all about machinations and facades in order to trap their victims. Drakkar Noir was the adamant abettor of the good ol' proverbial clubbing on the head. Since we're talking about the Nordic pantheon, the first could be impersonated by Loki, while the latter was 100% Thor, and change clubbing with hammering. No elaborate wording or flamboyant behaviour here. Just plain dark spleen and meaning business. Just the thing to make a Viking warlord proud.
"Yeah, but it's so old school!"
Who said that? C'mon, who said that? No one said that? Right lad, stay hidden in the crowd! This was always a very "brave" thing to do!
Old school? Really? It's a drakkar for Odin's sake, not some high-end missile cutter! Drakkars are still badass and fabulous after more than 1000 years have passed since they first hit the waves. ("Launched" would be too obvious a pun here.) What are the chances of any high-end missile cutter to be remembered and admired after 1000 years? Probably the same with a fragrance launched during 2015 to be widely acknowledged and respected after almost 35 years, the way Drakkar Noir is as we speak.
So come closer to the fire brothers, and with swords held on high, let's bellow in unison.
"Odin I await thee! Your true son am I..."
And rest assured that the ancient gods reposing in the melancholic chambers of the fragrance Valhalla may be gone but by no means forgotten.
The only thing distinguishing whether any given substance is either a poison or a remedy is the quantity taken. And the only exception to this rule I've met thus far is Dior's purple chem grenade. Warnings like "Beware! I saw Poison in her toiletries!" before visiting some girl's private chambers were not uncommon at all during its reign of terror. And I've seen many a tough guy being on the slave end of a leash as soon as they managed to get on their feet again, after being floored by Poison which had viciously bitch-slapped them to submission a few moments ago. And their mullets didn't save them. On a second thought, I believe that nothing could save them.
Although one of the most desirable traits of poisons is nontraceability, this one had none. It could be traced from two blocks away and linger like forever in the crime scene after the job was done. Had someone splashed it in 1985, it would have probably been there till the early '90s.
Poison fell like a bomb on our unsuspecting world and burned it to a cinder. The aftermath could be described with just one word. Pandemonium. For a couple of years after it entered our reality (bending it beyond repair), my small city was reeking with it 24/7, to the point of rendering almost impossible to recognise a woman's presence by her perfume anymore.
But its huge (and more than often abusive) overuse is not the reason behind considering it the most important perfume of the '80s. No, it's the fact that I can hardly imagine any other perfume from that decade deserving the title of "cornerstone" that much.
And I'm still more than eager to marry any woman who has a vintage bottle of it, along with Loulou and Byzance, on her dressing table. For these three sentinels guarding her inner sanctum would surely be an irrefutable proof that living by her side would be a perpetual roller coaster. And how could it be any different when the triptych of her woomanhood would speak through Loulou's guile innocence, Byzance's despotic dominance and Poison's mesmerising witchery?
There's not even a single thing even remotely reminding of light whenever Poison enters the stage. If you're looking for some bright and sprigthly mooded perfume, spare yourselves the shock and don't bother trying it.
Just try to imagine a tall, lithe woman, with her long raven narcotic hair being the only thing covering her alabaster body. Now put her in front of an altar made of purple marble, uttering strange arcane chants and gesturing fluidly to the void. You don't know what the crimson liquid trickling from the corner of her mouth is...
Still don't get it? Run!
Last year, my mother, who knows that I'm a perfume junkie threefold the way she was in her prime, presented me with a full 50ml splash bottle which she had been keeping for nearly 30 years. The cabochon glass stopper strummed immediately some half-forgotten '80s tune, hidden in the depths of my heart. I guess it was something coming from an era when cheap plastic gimmicks were treated exactly the way they deserved. Like cheap plastic gimmicks. Its sentimental value aside, I was expecting nothing less than it would have turned into something despicable, if not to dust. Well matey, think again! The bloody hellcat smelled as if she was vialled just yesterday! All her stupendous eminence and glory was there, completely unaltered and still hollering for obedience. And who was I to deny it?
Having not experienced Poison for over a decade, I had almost forgot the facts verifying the theory and the actions triggering the mood. Poison, the way I remember it, was never negotiable or forgiving.
Sillage? If you were standing on the Equator having just damped some and you felt a light tap on your back, you shouldn't be worried. It would be Poison having already circled the Earth.
Longevity? You could spray it on the plaque on Pioneer 10 and see how aliens would deal with it after n years.
Smell? No fancy metaphors here. It smells like Poison and that's it. Period.
Given all that, I overlook the fact that its box's malachite pattern and general layout is shamelessly stolen from Jean Couturier's Coriandre from 1973. I love malachite, and for some strange reason, if someone would ask me what colour should a poison have, I'd answer "green". So according to this abstruse linkage, Poison's box fits its content perfectly.
Aye, the '80s were surely a time when "big hair, big shoulders, big perfume" was the newfound Holy Trinity of voguish mods worldwide, but Poison's irreverent mouth was even bigger. Thus swallowing everything coming its way was rather inevitable back then. The only limited thing about it was the diction it used, since two out of three words it usually spat out were "screw" and "you". The third was always something like "sucker", "loser" or "dreg".
But I never really detested its unapologetic egotism, cause when it comes to perfumes, what we all ardently crave is not them screwing around, but screwing with our minds. And for some 30 years now, Poison still brandishes one of the biggest bloody screwdrivers I've ever seen...
-Oh my...! Did you see that? A grapefruit the size of Mount Everest just fell from the sky!
-Yeah. It seems it was hunted down by this even bigger jasmine that's following...
-Do you think we should run?
-Probably, but having just eaten this delicious exotic dish with its slight dose of cummin and all this pepper, I don't think I'll be able to...
-Yeah, me too...The damn dessert was so loaded with cinnamon and cloves, that my stomach debars any thoughts of running.
-So what shall we do?
-I don't know. How about play nonchalant and go pick some juniper berries? I think I can smell some nearby...
-Agreed! They would make a fantastic finale for such a surreal day!
Exactly Azzaro! Decibel. Without an "s". Which means singular. Which means one. Which means nearly imperceptible and impossible to be heard. Which means that perhaps the tacky microphone bottle was inevitable in order to make the fragrance audible and amplify its voice, by prompting people to have some fun pretending they are singing in their bathrooms while holding it. Because if you were relying solely on the scent's substance, presence and quality for sales, well, I don't think so...
If volume, performance and bigger than life personae is what you're looking for, don't bother with the backing vocals. Go for the frontmans instead. And erstwhile deafening Azzaro was never in short supply of them till music and perfumery became, for crying out loud, the halfhearted whimpers they are today.
My heart lies now like tattered sails in windmills lorn.
Sky, vent your sighs and when the pulse departs the vein,
it will be you for whom I'll live dead and reborn.
Vapour and rain, river and sea...vapour again...
And I'll worship you every night. And I'll kiss your violet lips every morning. And I'll be a pilgrim in your body's temple. And I'll trace the contours of your amber skin with my fingertips. And I'll wash your face with my tears. And I'll treasure every moment of your sandalwood breath. And I'll cherish your image wearing nothing but a golden cincture and a golden anadem to give substance to your diaphanous form.
For you are my golden shackles.
For you are the blood of my dreams.
Can you see me Nausicaa?
Can you feel me Calypso?
Can you touch me Penelope?
Can you smell me Circe?
Can you hear me Cassandra?
I always believed in you...
OK. let's see...How about a total paradox in modern perfumery's logic, living mostly in supermarkets and hiding (or is it lurking?) in their lower shelves.
Although it came out in 1993, its one of the most '80s fragrances out there. Perhaps 1993 was too close to the '80s to leave their influence out of the picture.
Compared with the watered-down versions of the '80s classics, it totally stands out, being in a league of its own.
Nothing sweet or dainty about it, just acrid citruses, bitter woods and tangy herbs, all mixed up in bucket-loads of excavated soil. If you wanna smell like a landslip, or like a lumberjack roaming the log-made bars in his vicinity during his day off, look no further. Whether these bars are in Alaska or Siberia doesn't really matter. Since he stands amongst the ones who built them, he'll always be welcome to every single one of of them.
Bought for pocket change, it coped extremely well with a little trick I played and managed to convince people that it's an outrageously priced and very hard to find niche creation. Yes, I know I should be ashamed about that, but I never let a chance to bash the occasionally arrogant niche foofaraw slip by unused. After all Ulric de Varens does sound like something that costs a gold sovereign per bottle, and the UDV acronym sounds hi-tech enough to support my scenario and worth my imaginary price.
It also kinda proves my theory that since there must be some sort of rock bottom in how cheap their ingredients may come, cheap scents are less likely to be reformulated over the years. So in some cases, there's a good chance that cheap fragrances smell way better than the current versions of pricy designer fragrances which have become the ghosts of their former selves.
It's strange, unexpected, behind the times and way more Azzaro pour Homme than Azzaro pour Homme. In other words, a true real deal.
So yes a total paradox, but by no means a fallacy. Fallacies are the privilege of fragrances tenfold its price, when they try to convince us that their reformulations were inevitable, due to whatever lame arguments they may come up with. Ulric de Varens doesn't seem to believe them. And neither do I...
Since I'm good in crafts, I'm thinking of making a belt with two holsters, all Far West and stuff, and pack two 200ml bottles of this little wunderwaffe all the time. Cause this looker is a life saver in all its salience. And a delight savourer in all its clarity too. It carries an one of a kind charisma to dissipate any troubles that may be thrown your way.
There's nothing this beaut can't handle. Even getting the "poet" out of me. Even enjoying its own bipolarity by being two different fragrances, depending on where you spray it. Citrusy and musky clouds on my wrist, salty bitter woods in the crook of my elbow (whilst crooking it).
It almost changed my attitude towards Calvin Klein, since I never thought of them as a truly memorable perfume house producing fragrances with the potential to become legendary over time. Who knows, perhaps they were never meant to concoct august heavy hitters, but rather sanguine and happy carefree vagrants.
Oh, and its bottle makes an excellent atypical and kooky case of a hip flask when empty.
Have you ever heard "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways?
"Hey, street boy, want some style?
Your dead end dreams don't make you smile.
I'll give you something to live for.
Have you and grab you until you're sore."
Lita Ford and Joan Jett (long before start sweating in leather pants) along with Cherie(!) Currie were surely some sort of punk seers back in 1976 when the song was released. For their "Cherry Bomb" finally came. And it absolutely delivered!
Joop! was unleashed in 1989 and blew every oakmoss stronghold and vetiver fortress to smithereens.
To the point that half of the next decade will always be the "Cherry Chronicles" for many of us who were around twenty back then.
I can still remember the way that sometimes by entering a cafe you could swear that everyone inside had just finished smoking a pipe the size of a didgeridoo stuffed with cherry tobacco.
But you know what? No cherries were used in building the damn thing's pyramid!
Since internet with its detailed notes pyramids was not around when Joop! entered the scene, imagine my surprise when I found out about the "no cherries" thing many years later.
So where the hell do all these orchards come from? What kind of olfactory sorcery made them thrive? What spell transmuted three brown spices, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom, into a claret fruit? Were the acidic citruses the catalyst for bringing this chicanery to life? Help!
Let alone that none of its ingredients could justify its hellish hue, which makes it one of the very few fragrances that its colour tempts me to quaff it.
But the most amazing thing about it was it being a very serious joke in all its potential to apply its suffocating sweetness with a sledgehammer. Very few fragrances since then have equaled its epic sillage and longevity and I don't think that any has surpassed them.
Its bottle had always the strange ability to look like it constantly craved a brawl, assuring you that "Joop!" was the sound that its fist would make when landing on your face. Probably inside a pink balloon, all comics-style and stuff. And patching you up afterwards, since it also had a medical degree, being the first graduate of a yet to be founded academy. The one that would create the medicinal genre in the following years.
But who didn't love any variation of the archetypical toxic-pink, cherry flavoured cough syrup as a kid? It was so yummy that many of us ocassionally pretended a sore throat, in order to slake our addiction.
No wait, this sounded wrong somehow. I'm not talking codeine-laden cough syrups here. No, not that kind of addiction. I'm just talking about the sensuous phantasmagoria that pharmaceutical companies had come with, so that kids would drink their stuff without any Ancient Greek Drama antics. Being Greek, I and my compatriot toddlers were always inherently good in such stuff.
I just can't remember if it was the medicine that made me love the smell of cherries or vice versa. But I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Sweet medicines casting sweet memories, rekindled by sweet scents. Joop! in a nutshell...
Thus being addicted to it was an one-way street, and I'll be eternally thankful to these nice people in Germany who thought that the world was getting boring and decided to do something about it.
Ignore the fact that I always loved to hate it and it hated to love me. Sure thing is that neither of us could live without wrangling a bit every once in a while.
I don't know whether something can be categorised under a label that didn't exist when it came out. Thus I don't know if Joop! could qualify as a gourmand. However, what it certainly qualifies for is the title for the one of the loudest entries ever this side of the Big Bang.
First of all I'd like to make a remark about the "catchy" text in the fragrance's description.
"Its unique formula contains some of the most exotic spices on earth; saffron, leather, cedarwood, suede, musk and vanilla incenses lift you to heaven."
Well, unless my English fail me, then could someone please explain this to me? With the possible exception of saffron, which in any case is only one and not "some", which are the other "some of the most exotic spices on earth"?
Now, unless the sample I was given was wrongly labeled, I can't help but wonder if the way that leather smells has changed so dramatically since the '70s-'80s. I've read a lot of reviews, and 90% of them described Golden Boy as a fragrance where leather notes shine. But it gets even stranger, as a good deal of this 90% use the words "creamy leather", and this is something I just don't get, since I never thought that these two words could be put together to describe a fragrance. For me, leather can be either oily, pungent, or dominating, but it can't be creamy, cute, or yummy, unless you have a bowl of custard spilled over your leather jacket. Which is not a bad thing per se, but it's an accident by all means, thus not an expected or established way to describe something as odd as "creamy leather".
Now, if we're to talk leather, Trussardi Uomo, Jacomo de Jacomo and Knize Ten smell like leather to me. Golden Boy does not. To my nose, Golden Boy is Dirty English after taking a good bath to remove all the dirt, and thus be transformed from a lousy dirty bastard to a cuddling golden darling. Or like Burberry's Brit Rhythm, with it's tempo pumped up a couple of hundreds BPM. Rausch by J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin could also be the case, given that it had left its leather coat back home in Berlin.
So, unless there's something very wrong going on with my sample, Golden Boy is a quite pleasant, although kinda generic, scent, but it's definitely not leather. Cause if it had come face to face with any of the real leather-clad bad boys (and girls) of past decades, chances are that it would be its own hide decorating their walls. And that would be the closest to real leather it would ever come...
Is Brut one of the best cheap fragrances ever created? Yes and no. And if this sounds sort of contradictive, I'll clarify it by saying that Brut is simply one of the best fragrances ever created. Cheap or not.
When I was young and foolish, I used to give Brut and any similar priced fragrance a wide berth, cause I was kinda embarassed to admit that I was wearing cheap stuff. I always went for the status of smelling "expensive", and to my vainglorious mind, a fragrance's price tag was way more important than its actual quality.
Now that I am old and I fancy myself as a seasoned veteran of the "Niche Wars", I have no problem to admit that I couldn't be any more mistaken. I have no problem to admit that Brut is an excellent piece of high perfumery, and it holds a place in the "legendary classics" pantheon, along with Old Spice, Pino Silvestre and Tabac Original, although I think it's kinda first among equals, due to its iconic, unique and hyper-elegant emerald bottle.
And now that I've made my confession about my then unfair and short-sighted scent evaluating criteria, I just hope that these old chaps have forgiven me for being such a snobbish and arrogant brat, who used to despise everything that didn't fit in his pompous agendum. And I'm more than happy that the time has finally come for me, to truly appreciate their tremendous gravitas, and enjoy their straightforward masculinity, no holds barred.
It's a freezing and dreary day. Not just every day however. It's Christmas Eve. And a proper one I might say, since there's a lot of snow around. And what's more, I got all lucky in my "thematic" shopping this morning. I stumbled upon a near mint antique bottle of Nuit de Noël in a flea market, complete with its jade shagreen case, tassel and stuff, and since I've always thought of it as one of the most elegant packagings ever made, I grabbed it without further ado. I guess that wishing it was full too, would be sort of pushing my luck.
With a solid piece of history in my coat's pocket, I think that having a couple of drinks while sniffing it wouldn't be such a bad idea on this cold winter day.
So, pretending that it's 1922, I enter an old bistrot in the city's most popular square, and order a glass of fine cognac.
From where I am, I can see a girl sitting on the stairs of a building's entrance, lying opposite to the bistrot's side windows.
A cascade of fiery red hair is bursting from her beanie.
She's like a torch burning in the snow...
She has placed her bag on the cold and wet marble and she's sitting on it. She holds a small paper bag in her hands and looks excited. I wonder what the cause of her exhilaration could be. I take a sip of my cognac and smile.
What she takes out of her small paper bag makes my heart miss a beat. I recognise the plain black-capped rectangular bottle. Or, to put it better, I recognise its label. She opens it and dabs a few drops on her wrists and on the sides of her neck. Now if this is not a coincidence, then it has to be fate signing at me.
Encouraged by the spirit of the day, I decide to be a little more daring than usual and find out which of the two.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Her amber eyes widen with surprise.
"Your Christmas Eve."
"What about it?"
I sway my bottle in front of her eyes.
"Hey! This has the same name, but it's so more beautiful and looks so old. What is it?"
"The grandmother of yours. Care to meet her?"
She accepts my offer for a drink. After all it's freezing outside.
"Oh my God... This is magical..."
Although the perfume is long gone, its soul is still lingering. And sometimes an echo can be louder than the sound itself.
She remains silent with her eyes closed for quite a while. Although I suspect where she might have been drifting, I ask her anyway.
"I was trying to imagine some of the hands that once held this bottle and some of the words that were whispered because of its content being worn. Anyway, my bus leaves in four hours. Can you stand me being ecstatic for this long, oh my noble stranger?"
"Noble stranger" is how we agreed calling each other, to maintain some of the mystery that is weaved with this special and magic day.
But in any case, I tell her that I could possibly stand her more likely for four years, if she could be that dramatic the whole time.
"OK, my turn now."
Although she has it dabbed also on her wrists, she lifts her hair, tilts her head, and invites me to sniff her neck. This upretentious and impulsive gesture warms my heart. But I guess this is what this girl is all about, warming people's hearts.
I go for the sniff, and...
I don't know if it's her gesture, the perfume itself, the surrounding festive atmosphere or any combination of them, but what I smell almost brings tears in my eyes.
I struggle not to kiss her neck, but it's my apparently cold nose tip that spares me the struggle, cause it touches her skin slightly and startles her a bit.
She steps back and sees my nearly teary eyes.
"Hey you dummy... Stop spoiling me! Do I smell that good?"
"You smell like the angels working in Heaven's pastry shop, while a forest wood fire is roaring in its fireplace..."
She won't stop giggling and laughing heartily for the whole three hours we'll spent together. She won't stop sniffing her wrists either. She looks so happy and carefree.
It's time for her to leave and catch her bus.
We walk outside and we stand for a while, staring at each other.
I don't know what to say.
She doesn't seem to know either.
She hesitates for a moment.
Then she leans towards me and with her frail hand tracing my cheek, her lips brush mine for an instant.
And by this fragile token of affection, I know that her scent will remain on me forever.
She turns her back and starts to walk away.
After a few steps she stops and turns her head back.
"I'm Maria!" she shouts, before vanishing in the crowd. I stand still among hundreds of people who are walking around me hastily. I light a cigarette and lean my back against a wall.
I close my eyes and try to imagine what she might be thinking when she went outside for a couple of minutes to buy a pack of cigarettes.
I close my eyes and try to imagine her surprise when she'll discover the flacon in her bag...
I hope you're happy beautiful Maria, wherever you are.
I never saw you grow old. I never saw you become distant. And you never saw me either.
Your icon remains immaculate in my mind, just like this little wonder that made our paths cross, that cold winter morning, 28 years ago.
Your laughter is still ringing in my ears.
And like a friendly and beloved ghost, you shall visit me once more this year, on the same day that I will allow myself a dab of the perfume that is you.
Forever young... Forever happy...
Forever my Maria from the Christmas of 1986.
My beautiful Maria of Nuit de Noël...
I assume that by now, it has become more than obvious through my reviews that I'm a total vintage freak, and since I've never come upon a reformulation that was better than the original fragrance, I think that my reasons for being such a freak are on solid ground. Thus, all my reviews and comments are about the original formulations of the fragrances they're about.
So, Paco Rabanne pour Homme. This is one of the "Holy Trinity" of rather expensive fragrances that I remember from when I was a kid, and were hugely popular in Greece during the '70s and '80s. The other two were Azzaro pour Homme and Aramis. An uncle of mine was using all three of them regularly, so I grew quite accustomed with each one of them. If we consider Aramis as a "battle scent" and Azzaro as a "macho overdose", Paco Rabanne was a much more refined tough guy, with a sweet undercurrent lurking under his skin. I'd daresay it was the metrosexual of its era. I'm not even sure after all these years if it would qualify as a "powerhouse", compared of course with fragrances like Quorum and Drakkar Noir. I don't mean that it lacked in sillage and longevity, cause it didn't, and there's absolutely no doubt that it would singlehandedly beat to a pulp 99% of today's masculine fragrances, but compared to the rest of the beasts that roamed the Earth during its heyday, it somehow lacked in "powerhouse" quality, which is a quite abstract and difficult thing to explain. For example, Le Male and 1 Million have nuclear sillage and longevity, but not a chance to be rendered as powerhouses, cause they lack the sense of seriousness and/or meaning business that old powerhouses had. Maybe this was the reason that its bottle had smooth curves and was a joy to hold, while Aramis and Azzaro pour Homme bottles' edges could be used as a knife in an emergency. And that unique, elegant and peaceful shade of green it held, was like saying "Come on gentlemen! We don't need that much of testosterone to prove us men!" in a melifluous and cultivated, yet commanding voice.
Since I'm not a rich guy, my only chance of laying my hands on vintage bottles is to discover them in some backstreet shop. And I haven't stumbled on any Paco Rabanne yet. So my comments are mainly based on my memory and the feelings that this fragrance evoked to me back in the day. A couple of years ago I visited a Sephora shop to browse through body lotions, and there I saw an almost full tester of Paco Rabanne pour Homme, next to almost empty 1 Million, Invictus and Black XS ones. This seemed quite reasonable, because what Sephora visitor would mind to test in 2013 a fragrance launched in 1973? I thought "Why not?" and reached for it, but its sprayer appeared to be jammed. It seems that the universe was sending me some kind of message. But being a stubborn explorer, I ignored it and insisted on pushing the sprayer and my luck, and what I finally got was a good deal of the fragrance spilt on my hand. Its dinstinctive soapy quality was still there, but that was about the only thing that was left from the scent I remembered. It didn't smell natural at all, and to be honest I found it a little cloying and off putting. I informed the sales assistants about the malfunction and told them that the fragrance might have gone bad. They were helpful enough to bring a new tester, but it sprayed the same disappointment on me. I stood brooding for a few seconds, mentally waving yet another reminder of my youth goodbye. It bode me farewell in about 3 hours...
To conclude, Paco Rabanne pour Homme was one of the cleanest smelling fragrances of its time, with a sweetness (honey?) that was rather unusual back then, and much more sophisticated and courtly than most of the brutes of its era which were knocking you of your feet right upon first spray. But alas, as I've already mentioned, the appropriate tense when talking about its present self is simple past for me, and as such it shall remain...
I shouldn't like D&G Masculine. Just out of spite, if nothing else. Cause it made a fool out of me and taught me a good lesson in modesty by embarassing me big time.
When I saw the D&G Feminine/Masculine pair hitting the shelves in 1999, I thought something like "Come on D&G, are you THIS out of creativity? Is this the best you can do to hail the new millennium, launching family perfumes? Where's Bambine to complete the joke?"
And I was laughing with what I thought was funny.
And then I was given two samples...
And I shut my big mouth and felt like an idiot.
For D&G masculine had the last laugh.
Cause upon applying it, it was as if someone had torn down the drape depicting a bleak winter landscape, and allowed the magnificent Mediterranean panorama to shine. With its ancient waves gently lulling all sad straits, and with a glass of cold homemade lemonade waiting on a old iron table, in a garden full of herbs, under a pine tree.
This is the happy star of male fragrances.
It's the most optimistic specimen of bliss and the most productive "silly smile" generator in the masculine scents' world.
Although it may sound a bit inconsequent coming from someone who calls himself GothicHeart, D&G Masculine is a joyous slice of sunlight, and the best mood modifier I've ever encountered.
I guess even gothic hearts need a joyous slice of sunlight and blue devils kicked square in the butt every once in a while. And D&G Masculine proved itself as a terrific kicker...
I have a confession to make. It may reduce my already low credentials in perfume reviewing even further, but I think it's the right thing to do.
I often fall for names that ring the bell of my pagan instincts, or kickstart my primal fears of walking blind in a tenebrous dungeon.
They sometimes make me like a perfume before even smelling it. Fall in love with its concept even. And yes, I know that I should have abandoned this kind of thinking since 12, but I guess my love for the thrill of the unexpected keeps it alive all these years. But in Noir Divin's case, the unexpected was way too surprising.
If I had ever seen this baby languidly lolling somewhere in a lady's boudoir, I'd be something like "Gracious sakes lad, this must be some lady and you absolutely have to smell this on her skin!"
A name evoking the mysteries of the night, a bottle that could hold a shady and probably dangerous potion and a house whose name sounds like a secret location where witches meet.
Noir Divin had it all.
Except the perfume itself. It's still a great concept, but for a different perfume perhaps, cause this one may be a very nice lady, but it's neither Noir nor Divin. No mysteries, no danger, and the witches eventually met someplace else. Nothing to shake your world here.
It's actually a very comforting scent. It's as comforting as a cup of hot cocoa, especially when you drink it next to a vase filled with freshly cut roses and powdering your nose every now and then. But what you'd expect from something called Noir Divin wouldn't be to offer you comfort, but rather to send you seeking comfort after encountering it, possibly along with a shoulder to cry on.
I won't blame the perfume itself, neither I'll say that it failed to meet my expectations. After all, it's not its fault if my mind created a wild and mostly inconsequent image about its potential, before smelling it. To tell the truth it's started to slowly grow on me. But for completely different reasons than I initially thought it might. The question now is whether I should try to test its namesake too, a Swiss red wine, if I ever happen on it, or simply avoid the risk of yet another disappointment. Cause you can test a perfume as many times as you like without any nasty side-effects, but how many times can you test a wine before detox becomes ineluctably necessary?...
There is a handful of very old cloth shops in my hometown, which have not undergone a renovation since the '70s. Upon initial spraying Iris Nazarena smells exactly like they do. Perhaps there was some very popular and widely used air freshener back then, or more likely something used in the proccessing of the fabrics, and thus the characteristic smell has pervaded their walls permanently. And for some strange reason, I was feeling rather uncomfortable being in such shops as a child, although I loved the seemingly endless variety of their merchandise. This "blast from the past" nostalgic quality slowly fades away after a couple of hours, and what is left, is something that an ice queen would leave lingering in her wake. Something like a distant titter in a dark winter night, that clutches your heart with icy fingers. I sense no welcome here, and this ashen grey industrial smell is so devoid of any warmth that it makes me shiver with conflicting feelings of pleasure and dread. Contradictive? Perhaps. But contradictions are not necessarily a flaw, cause while contradictive perfumes can be either good or bad, what they cannot be is indifferent. And this is already a merit, at least in terms of interest picking, and more than enough to make them stand out in our contemporary faceless perfume times. And Iris Nazarena has a face. A scary one perhaps, but still a face...
This is a fragrance foreseen in nightmares.
I have a suspicion that this was what Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now was talking about when quoting "The horror! The horror!" from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".
In a recently discovered letter from Howard Philips Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, in which Lovecraft describes one of his nightmares, the following passage was surely portending the birth of an anomaly like Salvador Dali pour Homme, some 50 years before its coming.
"...I dreamt of a dark pond amidst a desolated garden with long dead rose bushes. Its green, stagnant water was shimmering under an alien moon, emanating an unbearable foreboding of great evil. I was standing mesmerised in front of it, staring at its unfathomable depths, and completely unable to avert my eyes. And then I heard a cacophonous, orgiastic commotion of fifes coming from the ominous line of trees in the distance. And like answering to a call, the water begun to stir, like something unimaginably dreadful was about to emerge any moment. And along with the tumultuousness of the water, there came the smell...Oh dear God, the smell...
With a terrifying feeling that something was standing right behind me, I woke up drenched in sweat, and shaking. The last thing I remember from my dream was a fleeting glimpse of a pair of pitch black lips over my shoulder, whispering "I shall find you..." And although I'm sure that it was my imagination playing tricks on me, I'd swear that for what felt like an eternity, although it was only a few seconds, the smell seemed to have followed me, filling my bedroom.
God have mercy on us all, should this foulest of smells ever finds its way from the world of dreams to the world of the living."
If one and only one creation of every art was to be displayed in a gallery dedicated to art's finest examples, then it should be no other than Salvador Dali pour Homme representing perfumery. I guess it would be redundant to say anything about its bottle, other than it's the most bizarre and surrealistic vessel ever used to contain a fragrance. But since we're talking about Señor Dali, I also guess that this shouldn't come as surprise. I'll just add that this is not a bottle that anyone would like to sleep in the same room with. Perhaps Henry S. Whitehead's short story "The Lips" could give a good reason why. But if the bottle is bizzare one time, what's inside it simply doesn't have anything analogous in the known universe. I simply can't describe how it smells like, because I don't know what I'm smelling. But whatever it is, it is something on a titanic scale. Words like notes, sillage and longevity have absolutely no meaning here. Maybe this is the reason why it took Thierry Wasser 13 years to create another fragrance. Maybe he was someplace hiding, terrified after he realised what he had unleashed upon the world. For this is one of the very few scents, of which when I trace a whiff of them in the air, I wouldn't want to meet the one wearing it. I could swear that the air around me becomes thicker every time I dare to spray a single shot on me. And judging by their body language, I could also swear that it changes people's behaviour towards me when I'm wearing it. It's like they sense an undercurrent of hostility coming in spindrifts. And it makes an otherwise friendly smile looking beguiling in the light of day, and dangerous after dark. It is a scent that defies the senses and all the usual ways of perceiving a scent, and speaks directly to the soul. Or threatens to steal it...
Embrujo de Sevilla does not need a review. It needs a poem that only a compatriot of hers, with his heart ablaze of passion, could write. It needs an ode to praise her eternal beauty, or an elegy to lament that this beauty is forever gone. Something like the immortal words of Federico García Lorca, that sound as if they were written for this beauteous Hispalense...
"Then I realized I had been murdered.
They looked for me in cafes, cemeteries and churches
... but they did not find me.
They never found me?
No. They never found me."
Shortly afterwards our "handshake" which left me breathless, and after finally managing to put myself together, I got angry. I kept looking at the Lilliputian sample and asking: "Why did you do this to me? I was happy without you! I was happy in my ignorance! Now I'm obsessed! Now I have to have you at all costs! Now I must have a Spanish mistress, to send her search all over Spain for you! And if I'm not good enough for Spanish ladies, then I myself must move to Spain and dedicate the rest of my life gathering as many bottles of you as I can find!" But the little vial gave no response. It just sat there, showing the slight indifference that someone who is fed up with compliments usually shows.
But levity aside, what on earth is this? How could something so beautiful elude me for so many yeras? This devastating Spanish charm is one of the very best perfumes I have ever smelled. It succeeds so greatly in making it possible to enclose time, in this case the past, in a bottle, that it bends reason. It's so dreamy and so nostalgic, that for a while I was not sure if I would be able to even start writing a review about it. I doubted I could find the proper words to speak of how it speaks to me. But then she appeared...It was like a beautiful yet melancholic apparition of an once breathtakingly beautiful Spanish enchantress who slowly materialised in front of me, and started to tell me stories. Stories about how there was a time when men were drawing knives for her dark eyes, in the cobblestone alleys of Seville. Stories of how young artists, desperately and secretly in love with her, were singing passionate cantes jondos in Peñas Flamencas, about the way her raven hair shone under the bright Andalusian sun. Stories about how the flutter of her dress made men in taverns order one more glass of sherry, every time she passed in front of them during her Sunday strolls in Plaza de España.
This is elegance. This is passion. This is art. This is Perfume! If someone had to have a perfume as a reminder of what perfume truly is, Embrujo de Sevilla would be the only one needed. And if someone asked me "What is perfume?", this is what I'd give her/him to smell. It seems that the spell this sorceress has woven around me is slowly making me losing my mind...
The most difficult adversary to beat is not the one who attacks either your body or your mind. The most difficult adversary to beat is the one who attacks your heart. And this particular one had my heart shackled and on its knees within seconds.
I never thought that there would ever be a perfume which would seriously doubt the first by far place that Opium holds in my heart all these years. I thought that it was already too late for such a thing to happen. But this bewitching Doña of yore is making eyes at me from the very first moment I met her. And these eyes do not forgive.These eyes are the ones to be lost in and never be found again. Ever. Y madre de Dios, ellos son tan muy hermosos...
Last days of April. A sunny and warm day, serves as a reminder that summer is never too far away. Not in the small part of the world where he lives at least. He enters leisurely a small and very old cosmetics shop, owned by a middle-aged lady who reminds him of this clever and kind aunt that almost all of us remember from our childhood. Having just smoked a couple of fags, he puts a chewing gum in his mouth. His eyes are scanning the fragrance shelves during the pleasantries. He spots a 50ml splash bottle of Azzaro's Acteur, and considering its 20 price a bargain for such a vintage piece, he grabs it and walks towards the cash register. And there he sees them and nearly swallows his chewing gum.
Three (!!!) 109ml (not a typo) splash bottles of Givenchy Gentleman, half-hidden in the showcase which also serves as the cashier desk. They lie among brushes, pantyhoses and barrettes, inexplicably away from the fragrance shelves. Trying to act as indifferent as possible, he asks to have a look at them. Their boxes are slightly worn and dirty, and their top side is sealed with a small transparent sticker, bearing the Givenchy logo. But there is no barcode, no estimated sign, no green dot and no EMB code. His heart starts missing a beat in every two. These come from mid to late '70s! He asks whether it would be possible to check them out. The lady, feeling there's a good chance to get rid of three bottles that were collecting dust for almost 40 years, grants him the permission. He opens the boxes from their bottom sides. The bottles are full. He unscrews their caps and he's nearly floored by what his doing unleashes. Trying to put himself together, he asks for a price for the lot of them. He can have them all for half the price of a typical Creed. He stashes them in his mailman bag, and after a slight bow towards this perfume vault involuntary keymistress [sic], he exits the shop. Hindering the impulse to run home and bury his nose in the bottles, he goes on with his business as if nothing had happened. Bows, sang-froid...It seems like the three newly acquired bottles have already started working their magic, by granting him some gentleman's qualities before even opening them. Finally, he returns home in late afternoon, makes a coffee, lights another fag, and...
"I never can be tied to raw, new things.
Such treasures, left from times of cautious leaven,
Cannot but loose the hold of flimsier wraiths
That flit with shifting ways and muddled faiths
Across the changeless walls of earth and heaven."
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, "Background"
Adding anything about the way Givenchy Gentleman smells would be superfluous. Hundreds of lovers or haters have described it very aptly before me, using sometimes the exact same reasons to justify loving or hating it. So my contribution here will be in the form of simply asking why such a ridiculously good fragrance has followed the fate of the dinosaurs, like a gigantic, mighty creature which was outlived by rodents. And if someone tells me that Givenchy Gentleman is not extinct, I'll beg to differ. Cause from what I read, its current formulation is so similar with its vintage one as much as dinosaurs were similar to mammals. In the sense that yes, both species are animals. But any further similarity ends there.
I usually avoid judging scents without testing them, but I think that one with half its notes synthetically replicated in a lab can't hold a candle to one laden with civet (probably the real thing) and oakmoss. The one acre of patchouli per bottle ratio is of course a staple, thus there's no use mentioning it. The funny thing however, is how a fragrance so stupendously fraught with something that its excessive use would label someone as a hippie when it was launched, has "gentleman" written on its bottle.
But please don't get me wrong. I like the hippies' simple life-approach very much, although I never strengthened their ranks. But true gentlemanship has nothing to do with the way one dresses, just like gallantry has nothing to do with one's size and education has nothing to do with schools. Some of the most decent gentlemen I've met so far, were shy, humble people with courageous hearts and little school education.
And speaking of schools, yes, Givenghy Gentleman is definitely the epitome of old-school. It's actually so old-school, that I guess it was already the headmaster of the powerhouse school when lads like Kouros and Antaeus entered first grade.
What was that again? How the current reformulated version smells like? Rhett?...
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."