Azzaro pour Homme by Azzaro

You might expect a number of catches to Azzaro Pour Homme's price, but as hard as I've looked I've only found one. Both the 6.7 oz bottle's cheap plastic N64-cartridge cap and first ten minutes of APH seem to contain a little too much negative space: a flimsy top to something otherwise marvelous. The opening always calls to mind a few little splinters of bark from some theoretical lavender tree laid out on a tabletop, frothing and writhing and thrashing against each other like bonito flakes over heat. They make a fantastic chatter with great fizz and intensity to it, but the empty air between those splinters remains unfilled for a little while, leaving too many gaps in the smell and falling just short of providing scaffolding for all the action. If you're like me and have no regard for moderation when you apply, this top is the part that can get just a little hard to stomach before it's through.
Then, maybe ten minutes later, the bottom just falls out and you're left like Wile E Coyote frozen mid-air to realize just how expansive this interior space you're in actually is. It's a dark rolling hillscape of damp woods, foamy creams, antique licorice-oiled straight razors resting on pillowy houndstooth cloth, all the bristling fuzz of the top having fittingly been shaved off in a clean cut. I can imagine a civil war soldier's toiletries kit smelling quite similar. It's a beautiful and strong atmosphere to cast over your day and the effect lasts long into the drydown which is more a pervasive feeling of a warm and comforting padding filling your nose than an identifiable scent itself. This is an aromatic fougére in all-caps, remaining a standout of the genre decades later, and a miracle at this price. Should be a blind buy for anyone who needs a great masculine cheap and easy

Knowing by Estée Lauder

NOTE: This is my impression of the current formulation. I've never smelled an older version and honestly have little interest in doing so with such easy access to this stuff

Knowing opens like a bullet through your soft palate. It makes your blood rush–a full symphonic blast of radiated aldehydes and thorny roots, both framing a singeing knot of civet, mimosa, and rose that grips you by the sphenoid, lifting you up to get a better look at its prey. The impression of a living thing nearby you stays throughout the first hour or so, and from the time I first smelled this stuff the top has vividly called to mind some kind of huge slick-black beast with piss-matted fur grinning down at me from high in the rafters of an abandoned wood cathedral, the floor an overrun and mossy tangle of roses and mulch in all directions. It's as engrossing and rewarding as an opening can possibly be, the monster-funk lifted into perfect balance by the floral and the sweet.

From there, it relaxes and the light dims as the astringency seems to change hands from the animalic to the familiar, recalling a wooden spoon bobbing in a simmering pot of vinegar or cider, which lets the feminine contours of the shape come into clearer view. It's a steady flow of sweet flowers and sour fruits occluding and one-upping each other as you sit with it. By the end you're left with a sensual/skin-like smell with a pleasantly coherent chord I see I first described in my notes as “fermented genital lichen swallowing a faint plum.” That doesn't quite capture the calming delicacy of the scent but I'm failing to write anything much better.

This whole description might not get it across but this is a seriously alluring scent on anyone with the confidence for it. Even (especially) at its most unhinged it is completely intoxicating to smell on someone else, and is overwhelming in the way that could intimidate as easily as it could disarm. My girlfriend and I will likely break into punches over who can spend the day smelling it on the other at least once before quarantine is over. This is a masterpiece of a chypre that you can buy relatively cheap and it should be on your shelf, no questions asked. If you don't like it, keeping smelling it until you aren't incorrect anymore

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