In defence of the eau de Cologne, and the beauty of simplicity.

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
In my relatively short time as what I think is fair to call a fragrance 'enthusiast', I've been struck by an abiding thought about how the 'community' at large seems to implicitly value complexity in spite of the beauty of simplicity.

Perhaps this is a legacy of when basenotes was in its infancy, where 'simple' designer fragrances were the norm for those contributing to the site; anything niche was a novel or rare experience, offering a different, and more complex, sensory experience that was appreciated as such. Yet now, where niche fragrances dominate online discussions and exist in all manner of forms and functions, the novelty of niche has seemingly diminished with time.

Of course, complexity doesn't solely abide within niche perfumery, but it does seem that the uncritical pursuit of a 'complex' fragrance - with 'challenging' notes, and a non-linear experience through the scent's lifespan - exists in large part due to the opposite - a rather crude, synthetic simplicity - dominating the designer world. Yet it would also be fair to say that the solution to 'bad' simple fragrances could be found in seeking out a better form of simplicity.

An example of something that appears to bisect the middle of these two 'solutions' could perhaps be found in the revival of interest and appreciation for the fougere: this green, mossy, herbaceous creature (a great thread on the 'nougere' can be found HERE) seems in part like a reaction against 'abstract' notes that make something smell 'sporty' or 'ozonic'. It's also something of a conservative return to something safe and knowable, a retreat to a retro form of masculine fashion as the role and even the idea of men and manhood gets tipped on its head.

But what of the eau de Cologne? The original modern western perfume doesn't seem to garner much in the way of affection - there's no 'cologne revival' in the way there has been with fougeres, and perhaps for obvious reasons it doesn't inspire the divisive attention that other types of fragrances do. In part the answer seems to be: simplicity. Most people have presumably smelled an EDC - smelled it, worn it, been there, and done that.

At the same time I have found perhaps the most consistent and simple pleasure in eau de Colognes than any other type of fragrance. The simplicity of fresh, clean, juicy citruses on top of a bed of a light herbal heat is one that feels so pure, clean, refreshing, and despite their age and legacy, relatively timeless. The basic structure is no doubt exceedingly simple - if you've tried one then, by and large, you at least know what to expect from them all.

Yet, still, I don't quite understand the lack of love for eau de Colognes and the beautiful simplicity they offer. Yes, it's perhaps obvious why some of the cheaper, more alcoholic, and short-lived fragrances like 4711 aren't particularly adored or frequently discussed due to operating more like an aftershave than a perfume. At the same time, Tom Ford has managed to position his weakling of a fragrance, Neroli Portofino, as something not only desirable but seemingly commercially viable as a clean, neroli-based eau de Cologne that costs £3 per ml. The trend of more upmarket and refined eau de Colognes doesn't end there, though, and I suppose the 'sprawl' out from eau de Colognes is a longstanding thing that encompasses all manner of 'clean', citrus-based, soapy-musky fragrances from Chanel to diptyque to Roja to MFK. Which perhaps throws confusion on the boundaries of what an eau de Cologne actually is given how common citrus-centric fragrances have become - look at something like Chanel's treatment in the gourmandish Allure Edition Blanche, or the sporty-fresh Allure Homme Sport, or the woody ambers of Bleu de Chanel. It is true possible that developments upon the constituent parts of an EDC - i.e. citruses and herbs - have left the original composition feeling perhaps somewhat tired, conversative, or outdated?

In all honesty I'm not sure. My own current favourite - Heeley's St Clement's - could be described in those terms yet I love it. There are no doubt many other fragrances, such as Villoresi's Acqua di Colonia, where the traditional aspect seems to provide a formal charm rather than any sense of being outdated or boring. Perhaps some are asking different questions from perfume than I am? At best, it seems they only exist as warm weather fragrances, or as shaving products - I don't hear too many discuss them as signature scents, for instance.

I also wonder if there is something else going on. Has this apparent disinterest in even the more modernised forms of eau de Colognes got something to do with the way we see beauty in the modern world? It's undeniable that the western world is well past its apex and on the decline as a civilisation, and so naturally its ideals of beauty are waning too, replaced instead by a psuedo-universal, or at least globalised, view of relativism that undermines classicism for the sake of plurality and indistinct notions of beauty and taste. Where that may have merit on some grounds - and I don't wish to turn the thread in to a discussion on this point - it has also led to a particularly commercial celebration of what is clearly not beautiful. In many regards it celebrates and commodifies ugliness, in large part because, for some interesting reasons, it is profitable to do so. Just as the hero has been replaced by the antihero in cinema, where gangsters and mobsters are revered in film and music, and even modern superheroes are largely immoral beings, fashion shows pay lip service to the idea of relative beauty, where shoots are now adorned with fetishised 'imperfections', from vitiligo to obesity, though this does appear primarily to make more money rather than make any grand claims about aesthetics. The American notion of beauty is one in particular that seems to relish the commodification of relative beauty: if beauty can be built then it can also be bought and sold, whether that's through diet or exercise, or via plastic surgery. A simple beauty, that of something inherent like the visual beauty of a young, attractive human in the prime of their life, has been refashioned within the world of relative beauty; it is at once dull - "vanilla", to use a sexualised and increasingly racialised parlance - and yet at the same time it is threatening, as the subtlety belies the fact that loud expressions in support of something 'not vanilla' do not in fact compensate for their lack of beauty. Is it wrong to think to turn towards ouds and animalics, or loud, gaudy 'clubbing' gourmands or 'sporty' fruity-aquatics, are in part due to the possibility that an extreme lack of beauty in one's life (in some cases visual or physical, but I also think it may be due to an inability to appreciate it rather than a lack of embodiment of beauty) can lead to a search for an 'extreme' solution?

Thus, just as niche complexity may have once been the answer to a poor form of 'simplicity' in designer fragrances, an amplified form of perfume that dials everything up to 11 has now become a commercially profitable form of what some may perceive as 'beauty' (though some also perceive such scents as ugly), and these newer forms of fragrance render something more tasteful like an eau de Cologne as 'boring' in comparison? It's at once easy to overlook something which is simply beautiful yet at the same time apparently quite different to appreciate it when it is seen - particularly if one is used to more bombastic forms of attention-seeking fragrance, or exotic and charming marketing backstories that don't quite match the perfume they are branding.

What does everyone else think?
- Do you like and wear traditional or retro eau de Colognes? If not, why not?
- And do you think there may be some weight to the way in which ideas of beauty have transformed monumentally since the 1950's to become vastly more commercial, democratic, perfunctory, and perhaps even ugly?
- If so, does that have any bearing on the (un)poularity of eau de Colognes?
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I'm a huge fan of Chanel Les Exclusifs Eau De Cologne. It is extraordinary.

I was looking forward to this with great anticipation but found it one of the more underwhelming 'new colognes' I've tried. I'll have to revisit it, it could be that I am guilty of what I identify here: underestimating the power of conservative and 'simple' beauty!
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I agree with you that traditional eau de colognes are a pleasure-fresh, satisfying, to be used with abandon, and ephemeral.

Tastes certainly change, but I'm not sure they've really gone out of fashion. there seems to be still interest. Some brands have gravitated towards this model. Acqua di Parma, the Tom Ford neroli range, Jo Malone, Atelier cologne. The point is that these perfumes are short lived and cannot turn in proper, long lasting perfumes. Perhaps in the distant past men were ok just freshening up, but now they want long lasting perfumes.

Btw, I also agree with l'hbi that the Chanel one is perhaps the best around. but as usual we all have different tastes. the heeley is also very good.
 

SixCats

Basenotes Dependent
Jun 13, 2003
In my relatively short time as what I think is fair to call a fragrance 'enthusiast', I've been struck by an abiding thought about how the 'community' at large seems to implicitly value complexity in spite of the beauty of simplicity.

Perhaps this is a legacy of when basenotes was in its infancy, where 'simple' designer fragrances were the norm for those contributing to the site; anything niche was a novel or rare experience, offering a different, and more complex, sensory experience that was appreciated as such. Yet now, where niche fragrances dominate online discussions and exist in all manner of forms and functions, the novelty of niche has seemingly diminished with time.

Of course, complexity doesn't solely abide within niche perfumery, but it does seem that the uncritical pursuit of a 'complex' fragrance - with 'challenging' notes, and a non-linear experience through the scent's lifespan - exists in large part due to the opposite - a rather crude, synthetic simplicity - dominating the designer world. Yet it would also be fair to say that the solution to 'bad' simple fragrances could be found in seeking out a better form of simplicity.

An example of something that appears to bisect the middle of these two 'solutions' could perhaps be found in the revival of interest and appreciation for the fougere: this green, mossy, herbaceous creature (a great thread on the 'nougere' can be found HERE) seems in part like a reaction against 'abstract' notes that make something smell 'sporty' or 'ozonic'. It's also something of a conservative return to something safe and knowable, a retreat to a retro form of masculine fashion as the role and even the idea of men and manhood gets tipped on its head.

But what of the eau de Cologne? The original modern western perfume doesn't seem to garner much in the way of affection - there's no 'cologne revival' in the way there has been with fougeres, and perhaps for obvious reasons it doesn't inspire the divisive attention that other types of fragrances do. In part the answer seems to be: simplicity. Most people have presumably smelled an EDC - smelled it, worn it, been there, and done that.

At the same time I have found perhaps the most consistent and simple pleasure in eau de Colognes than any other type of fragrance. The simplicity of fresh, clean, juicy citruses on top of a bed of a light herbal heat is one that feels so pure, clean, refreshing, and despite their age and legacy, relatively timeless. The basic structure is no doubt exceedingly simple - if you've tried one then, by and large, you at least know what to expect from them all.

Yet, still, I don't quite understand the lack of love for eau de Colognes and the beautiful simplicity they offer. Yes, it's perhaps obvious why some of the cheaper, more alcoholic, and short-lived fragrances like 4711 aren't particularly adored or frequently discussed due to operating more like an aftershave than a perfume. At the same time, Tom Ford has managed to position his weakling of a fragrance, Neroli Portofino, as something not only desirable but seemingly commercially viable as a clean, neroli-based eau de Cologne that costs £3 per ml. The trend of more upmarket and refined eau de Colognes doesn't end there, though, and I suppose the 'sprawl' out from eau de Colognes is a longstanding thing that encompasses all manner of 'clean', citrus-based, soapy-musky fragrances from Chanel to diptyque to Roja to MFK. Which perhaps throws confusion on the boundaries of what an eau de Cologne actually is given how common citrus-centric fragrances have become - look at something like Chanel's treatment in the gourmandish Allure Edition Blanche, or the sporty-fresh Allure Homme Sport, or the woody ambers of Bleu de Chanel. It is true possible that developments upon the constituent parts of an EDC - i.e. citruses and herbs - have left the original composition feeling perhaps somewhat tired, conversative, or outdated?

In all honesty I'm not sure. My own current favourite - Heeley's St Clement's - could be described in those terms yet I love it. There are no doubt many other fragrances, such as Villoresi's Acqua di Colonia, where the traditional aspect seems to provide a formal charm rather than any sense of being outdated or boring. Perhaps some are asking different questions from perfume than I am? At best, it seems they only exist as warm weather fragrances, or as shaving products - I don't hear too many discuss them as signature scents, for instance.

I also wonder if there is something else going on. Has this apparent disinterest in even the more modernised forms of eau de Colognes got something to do with the way we see beauty in the modern world? It's undeniable that the western world is well past its apex and on the decline as a civilisation, and so naturally its ideals of beauty are waning too, replaced instead by a psuedo-universal, or at least globalised, view of relativism that undermines classicism for the sake of plurality and indistinct notions of beauty and taste. Where that may have merit on some grounds - and I don't wish to turn the thread in to a discussion on this point - it has also led to a particularly commercial celebration of what is clearly not beautiful. In many regards it celebrates and commodifies ugliness, in large part because, for some interesting reasons, it is profitable to do so. Just as the hero has been replaced by the antihero in cinema, where gangsters and mobsters are revered in film and music, and even modern superheroes are largely immoral beings, fashion shows pay lip service to the idea of relative beauty, where shoots are now adorned with fetishised 'imperfections', from vitiligo to obesity, though this does appear primarily to make more money rather than make any grand claims about aesthetics. The American notion of beauty is one in particular that seems to relish the commodification of relative beauty: if beauty can be built then it can also be bought and sold, whether that's through diet or exercise, or via plastic surgery. A simple beauty, that of something inherent like the visual beauty of a young, attractive human in the prime of their life, has been refashioned within the world of relative beauty; it is at once dull - "vanilla", to use a sexualised and increasingly racialised parlance - and yet at the same time it is threatening, as the subtlety belies the fact that loud expressions in support of something 'not vanilla' do not in fact compensate for their lack of beauty. Is it wrong to think to turn towards ouds and animalics, or loud, gaudy 'clubbing' gourmands or 'sporty' fruity-aquatics, are in part due to the possibility that an extreme lack of beauty in one's life (in some cases visual or physical, but I also think it may be due to an inability to appreciate it rather than a lack of embodiment of beauty) can lead to a search for an 'extreme' solution?

Thus, just as niche complexity may have once been the answer to a poor form of 'simplicity' in designer fragrances, an amplified form of perfume that dials everything up to 11 has now become a commercially profitable form of what some may perceive as 'beauty' (though some also perceive such scents as ugly), and these newer forms of fragrance render something more tasteful like an eau de Cologne as 'boring' in comparison? It's at once easy to overlook something which is simply beautiful yet at the same time apparently quite different to appreciate it when it is seen - particularly if one is used to more bombastic forms of attention-seeking fragrance, or exotic and charming marketing backstories that don't quite match the perfume they are branding.

What does everyone else think?
- Do you like and wear traditional or retro eau de Colognes? If not, why not?
- And do you think there may be some weight to the way in which ideas of beauty have transformed monumentally since the 1950's to become vastly more commercial, democratic, perfunctory, and perhaps even ugly?
- If so, does that have any bearing on the (un)poularity of eau de Colognes?

Hi slp,

Wow! That's a Mouth full! I sort of "scanned" your long (but elegant) post and I believe I got the "gist" of what your are saying. While I have personally been a long time fan of "Bombastic/Animalic" type Fragrances (especially over the last fifteen years) I can and do appreciate a "simple" quality Fragrance. As a matter of fact, just this past Thursday, I purchase (my first ever) bottle of Classic "Guerlain Eau de Cologne Imperial" (which btw I scored a 3.4 oz. NIB bottle for twenty dollars thank you!) I suspect "Imperial' was created to be a (personal) Fragrance but, WOW! What a WONDERFUL smelling "Eau de Cologne is Guerlain Imperial". Oooh, and much to my surprise, while "Imperial" does not throw out a large "projection" scent, I was shocked by how long this rather light Fragrance/scent stayed on my Skin! I mean, we're talking half the day and over night into the next morning long. I find this SHOCKING (since as I'm known as "The Black Hole of Scents" here at BN). In short, I have a new founded appreciation for this type of Fragrance.
Thanks for your post.

Regards,

SixCats!
 
Jul 7, 2012
I was looking forward to this with great anticipation but found it one of the more underwhelming 'new colognes' I've tried. I'll have to revisit it, it could be that I am guilty of what I identify here: underestimating the power of conservative and 'simple' beauty!

In terms of the style, there is absolutely no wow-factor in Chanel's Eau De Cologne at all. None. This is a been-there done-that scent. We've all smelled it a million times before. But that's the point. Chanel made no attempt to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, the point was to perfect it while also giving it a modern profile. There's not a single hint of anything harsh here, nor is there anything that screams for attention. That's not what this scent is about. Chanel's Eau De Cologne is smooth and light yet surprisingly round and long lasting.

In my opinion, Chanel's Eau De Cologne is the ultimate example of setting a very high price on very high quality. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless because the quality of the materials used is so high, and the quality of the blend is also so high.
 

Darjeeling

Basenotes Institution
Oct 29, 2012
I'm a huge fan of the classic EdC style.

I'm more than happy to have a short sharp burst of fragrance, whether that's just to enjoy the short development, enjoying naturally ephemeral notes, maybe because sometimes just I don't want a fragrance that lasts too long. I love them also for their function of refreshing and cooling me on hot days. It's great to be able to come inside, apply it liberally all over my body, but not be choked out by it for the next few hours. Maybe a quick pick me up after a shower.

Then again, my general taste in fragrances doesn't require scents to be bombastic throughout the day, and I'm happy to get a 4-5 hours out of a scent then reapply or change scents later.I also prefer my scents discrete, so the 2-4 hours I get out of modern iterations of the classic EdC work well for me, as I can smell them on my skin for long enough.
 

jkonick

Basenotes Dependent
Feb 16, 2019
I like EdCs, and while I don't think it's a genre I would delve as deep into purchasing-wise as something like leather or oud fragrances, it's a category I like and have a few fragrances to scratch that itch.

My two favorites are Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert and CdG Vettiveru 2.

The former is a classically Ellena light and wispy creation, and while it preceded Declaration, it feels like it could be an EdC flanker to it - Declaration Eau Thé Vert - with some similar light spice and citrus, and a then-groundbreaking green tea note. It doesn't last at all, but I know JCE values the beauty of a balanced, simple composition even if it is fleeting, without giving into the temptation to add a bunch more notes that would muddy it up just for the sake of sillage and longevity. I'm glad I found a cheap bottle at Goodwill (200 ml for $45) because at retail I do find it way too expensive for the hour tops thrill it provides.

The CdG is very simple and straightforward, not too long lasting, but surprisingly so for an EdC, and easy to reapply liberally in the bug-spray type bottle haha. But if you love vetiver, it's amazing - bright, grassy, slightly nutty and earthy vetiver with just the barest citrus and woody adornments to give it some oomph. It's as close as you can get to straight vetiver EO as a fragrance. It's also not at all following in the weird-synthetic-industrial CdG house style, so it's a bit of an outlier there, but it's a fantastic vetiver take on an EdC.

In terms of the more theoretical, world-historical questions, I won't make any comments that are too broad of take on vast swaths of fragrance history, but I will say that I like JCE's "Japonisme" in terms of his spare, austere, but carefully balanced style. Like Cezanne and other Impressionists before, he combines refined French elegance and taste with naturalistic, spare Japanese simplicity. That aesthetic style is one I like in painting, perfumery, poetry, etc. Even while I also enjoy the opulent, baroque style of Middle Eastern fragrances, I also like my light and sprightly EdCs.
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I agree with you that traditional eau de colognes are a pleasure-fresh, satisfying, to be used with abandon, and ephemeral.

Tastes certainly change, but I'm not sure they've really gone out of fashion. there seems to be still interest. Some brands have gravitated towards this model. Acqua di Parma, the Tom Ford neroli range, Jo Malone, Atelier cologne. The point is that these perfumes are short lived and cannot turn in proper, long lasting perfumes. Perhaps in the distant past men were ok just freshening up, but now they want long lasting perfumes.

Btw, I also agree with l'hbi that the Chanel one is perhaps the best around. but as usual we all have different tastes. the heeley is also very good.

Yes, I think you're certainly right with a lot of that. Particularly the desire for longer lasting fragrances - the desire for fresh, clean, even citric-forward scents hasn't disappeared. But perhaps the consumer demands have changed: in large part due to the power of synthetics and the ability to create longer-lasting fragrances that don't cost the earth and aren't based on heavier, darker materials like woods, mosses, spices, ambers etc.

I also agree that Acqua di Parma present a good example for where the 'cologne style' of fragrance has gone. It seems to me they represent the fairly recent attitude of 'balkanised' perfume, which must be a profitable commercial approach due to margins, whereby each fragrance becomes a 'one note centric' affair. Why make one fresh, citric cologne when you can sell 10 different ones? Perhaps this is appreciated by customers who, say, like bergamot but dislike neroli? I'm not sure where I stand on it. Particularly given the fact that so many of these brands also fail to really 'elongate' the citrus aroma - Acqua di Parma and many others use a rather clever trick of using sweet-vanillic musks and ambers in the base to trick the mind in to thinking that the sweet, juicy fruit has lasted longer than it actually has, when in fact it has simply become a sweet ambery base after 30 minutes or so. Why not simply use something more herbal or even woody, something more akin to a traditional eau de Cologne, to extend the life of the fragrance? I suppose one obvious answer lies in the desire to make perfume unisex, and traditionally styled scents probably repel women who comprise the bulk of perfume buyers. And the other is the fact that sweetness has now successfully crossed over in to men's fragrances and it's probably a rare thing for your average male customer to complain about a 'sweet' base, particularly if they're looking for a citrus-based perfume.

In any case, I don't think the change in customer attitudes is necessarily or entirely a bad one. It seems fair enough on at least a few levels. Longevity was something you used to have to pay for according to the concentration of natural materials and now we can achieve the same or similar performance with synthetics, so why not demand that as the norm? I don't quite think that's what is going on though. At least not in its entirety. I don't think it fully explains what, personally, I do think is a move away from the traditional style of eau de Cologne and towards something...well, different, in the more 'simple' style of soliflore scents. It doesn't explain a fascination with things like complexity, or even the notion of 'challenging' fragrances, either - in my opinion this is more to do with the clamour for something 'MORE' in the sense that many are unwilling or unable to perceive or enjoy simple beauty. The reasons for this are presumably obvious enough; we recognise that taste is subjective and if you remove the power of tastemakers from shaping what we can buy and instead go to the market for direction (as Chanel and Dior do with their best selling fragrances) then it is an arm's race to find something bigger and better than you had before. It surely has something to do with tolerance - we become accustomed to what is familiar, and therefore require MORE of the same thing to receive the same positive emotional or psychological response - and if you fall in to this trap then there will always be someone willing to sell you something MORE. I suppose Dr. Johnson's adage about London can fit here: if you're tired of eau de Colognes then perhaps you are in fact tired of life! In any case, I do think the commercial and wider cultural landscape makes this desire for MORE both possible and normal/encouraged, until one is not just oblivious to simple forms of beauty but even celebrates ugliness - most obviously this can be seen in the animalic and oud trends which have evidently fascinated a portion of fragrance enthusiasts in spite of the obvious divisiveness and repulsion many perceive in such scents, but could easily be applied to garish ambroxan or sweet-spicy designer 'bombs' as well. If eau de Colognes seem boring in comparison to these, I'm not sure the fault lies in the cologne - perhaps the issue lies in the ability of commerce to shape and influence consumer trends, as well as the democratising force of commerce without a solid link to past ideas on beauty and style.

I could of course be reading too much in to the frequency and tendency for discussions on sites like basenotes to go in to particular directions and dwell on certain topics and types of fragrances. You can't really use online discussions as an accurate barometer of popularity and how people wear fragrances. Maybe they're less 'out of fashion' than I think, as you say - though I do think that the Acqua di Parma style colognes are a little different to the Chanel, Heeley etc types which seem more grounded in tradition. It may also be true that most people here grew up in an age of commercial perfumery, from the 1960s onwards, where perfumes were designed for mass market and even expensive designers have clones from brands like Avon. This was clearly an era when formality was thrown away and market forces have shaped the subsequent world more obviously than any sense of an inherited culture or set of stylistic tradition - which is why something like the way we dress is becoming sloppier by the decade: the market decides this is what it wants, and through advertising and making the 'MORE' of commercialism desirable, you lose formality. It becomes stale, boring, and less immediately gratifying in comparison, where once it may well have been fulfilling. Perhaps we're all too young to see this and instead ascribe to the idea of 'consumer's choice' and the freedom of expression via what we buy - or for the older members, maybe eau de Colognes remind them of something outdated and even the retro versions feel like aromatic fancy dress? I don't really know.

I do think you've found the major failing of the EDC (longevity) but I'm not sure it quite explains the lack of appreciation among enthusiasts. Fair enough, your average man is unlikely to bother with something you need to 'top up' with something like a travel atomiser. That's too much effort: they want something they apply in the morning and will last at least until the end of the working day. But considering the price of something like 4711 in comparison to Atelier and Acqua di Parma fragrances - which do something similar, as you say - I also think that the role of the market has been huge in effectively rendering these scents, if not obsolete in their traditional or even retro forms, then far less popular than they might be given how appealing they are aromatically. Part of that is obviously the fact that unisex scents need to appeal to women to sell well, but evidently men have also changed their attitudes as well - and that's partly choice and partly through being nudged by the market in to 'MORE'. Chanel have largely given up on any strict traditionalism and their BdC scents are effectively modern aromachemical-driven scents; Dior certainly have within the last 5 years with Sauvage and Homme 2020 - only Hermes' TdH seems grounded in some form of traditional cologne structure, with the vetiver underneath the orange note giving the requiste body and longevity. Their new H24 seems to be a hybrid, something closer to Chanel's approach.

Anyway, good stuff.
 

Nastka

Basenotes Dependent
Mar 6, 2011
There's nothing better than using an EdC style fragrance kept in the fridge during a heatwave. I very much liked Dior Escale series for this purpose, but sadly, these have now been discontinued.
 

Ken_Russell

Basenotes Institution
Jan 21, 2006
Always enjoying a good EDC especially of the traditional/vintage type, as a matter of personal taste did consider some (not all) styles developing after 1950s to be actually nice if regarding strictly the beauty ideal (s) of fragrance.
And while cannot certainly say or argue how this may have influenced EDCs-glad that so many great examples of this fragrance type are quite readily and often inexpensively available nearly anywhere.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I agree that right now the place of fresh perfumes has been taken by other genres (aquatic, woody ambers) which I really don't like. But evidently they bring in the money, as they're still occupying department store shelves.
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I agree that right now the place of fresh perfumes has been taken by other genres (aquatic, woody ambers) which I really don't like. But evidently they bring in the money, as they're still occupying department store shelves.

This is absolutely a key reason behind the decline in popularity of eau de colognes or similar sort of citrus aromatic fragrances.
 

andym72

Basenotes Dependent
Dec 19, 2008
My theory of why there hasn’t been a “cologne revival” is probably connected with my observation that you normally have to go niche and to a higher price bracket to get a good quality modern citrus fragrance these days.

So it’s probably a money thing - the mainstream brands want a massive profit margin, and even if there was a big untapped market for modern interpretations of the Kölnisch Wasser blueprint, the bill of materials is probably too high to do it properly at the mainstream market price of a bottle.

And I’m not sure there is a big untapped market for an Eau de Cologne. I’d bet most buyers would complain about how weak and short lasting it was (!) not understanding that it’s meant to be at that low concentration.

Having said that, my 500ml stopper bottle of R&G Jean Marie Farina worked out as £14 for 100ml. But Roger & Gallet are hardly well known in the UK (maybe in France but unlikely anywhere else. The French seem to like keeping good value good stuff a secret [emoji14] ).
 

motorcade

Basenotes Dependent
Dec 21, 2020
In my relatively short time as what I think is fair to call a fragrance 'enthusiast', I've been struck by an abiding thought about how the 'community' at large seems to implicitly value complexity in spite of the beauty of simplicity.

Complexity has no special value for me per se. If the scent is good, I don't care if it's linear, simple and/or light. Or even if it's "synthetic" (such a muddled term).

What does everyone else think?
- Do you like and wear traditional or retro eau de Colognes? If not, why not?

Sure, why not! More specifically:

1) I have yet to encounter a scent that I find to be particularly lacking in longevity. For a random reference, I can smell even current Paco pour Homme after 16 hours just fine (which should probably be impossible based on most testimonies)

2) Sillage/projection doesn't matter to me basically at all - the less the better actually, because I wear fragrances for myself and prefer a scent bubble encompassing my upper chest and nose

3) A weaker concentration allows me to wear two different scents a day without needing to shower in between

- And do you think there may be some weight to the way in which ideas of beauty have transformed monumentally since the 1950's to become vastly more commercial, democratic, perfunctory, and perhaps even ugly?

Qualitatively: no. From my sociologist's viewpoint, that would be an oversimplification unduly influenced by nostalgia and rosy-tinted glasses. More commercial? Yes, in a way, but the capitalist foundation that fuels commercialism was laid in the past decades anyway, so I view the present as a logical progression instead of some form of regression.
 

Tristan45

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 30, 2017
I made January 2021 the EdC month and wore nothing else - the genre seems terribly overlooked, but there are some gems out there, my favourites coming from Lyn Harris composed Agua Colonias for Claus Porto, particularly the Vetiver, Fougere and Porto ones, and some of the Santa Maria Novella Colognes, particularly the stunning Patchouli, as well as the Vetiver and Peau d'Espagne. Some of the old Guerlain EdC are great for any collection.
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I made January 2021 the EdC month and wore nothing else - the genre seems terribly overlooked, but there are some gems out there, my favourites coming from Lyn Harris composed Agua Colonias for Claus Porto, particularly the Vetiver, Fougere and Porto ones, and some of the Santa Maria Novella Colognes, particularly the stunning Patchouli, as well as the Vetiver and Peau d'Espagne. Some of the old Guerlain EdC are great for any collection.

That's great! Would you be willing to do a more in depth 'review' of your January wearing, or is there an existing post/thread where you discuss it which you would be happy ot share with us? Of course no worries if not, I'd just be interested to hear how you got on - some of the bad as well as the good, for example, and an exhaustive list of what you wore/tried would be great, too.
 

Tristan45

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 30, 2017
That's great! Would you be willing to do a more in depth 'review' of your January wearing, or is there an existing post/thread where you discuss it which you would be happy ot share with us? Of course no worries if not, I'd just be interested to hear how you got on - some of the bad as well as the good, for example, and an exhaustive list of what you wore/tried would be great, too.

Well there's no post I can point to sadly. I'm in the midst of leather month at the moment, so the ethereal delights of EDC month seem rather distant! There's something about the cologne presentation that's very uplifting, and in those dark days of January, particularly this year, they proved to be great mood enhancers. The ones that were worn the most were the Claus Porto colognes. I happen to spend a lot of time in extremely rural Portugal (I was there for over 6 months last year), and Lyn Harris (MIller Harris, Perfumer H) designed these scents for Claus Porto to reflect different aspects of the Portuguese landscape. Usually this sort of background story to scents is rather contrived, but in this case, she did an amazing job of capturing real scents of the plants that grow there. There's a very large amount of natural extracts etc compared to a lot of more contemporary fragrances.

The farm where I stayed had a grove of sweet and bitter orange trees and lots of other citruses, and you could enjoy the scents of the flowers (neroli), the leaves (petigrain), and the fruits themselves; the scrub land is carpeted in the cistus species from which you can gather labdanum resin, so you can always rub your hands through the bushes to smell the raw resin; there are many wild mints and thymes, and other herbs growing there; pines and eucalyptus trees abound, and loads of other fragrant plants, mosses etc. She drew on many of these to produce some of the most thoughtful modern colognes I know. Each cologne is focussed on different fragrant plant groupings over a fairly conventional 4711 style cologne structure. They are far removed from a basic 4711 cologne however, and are more like thoughtful essays on different aspects of nature. For me they are extremely evocative of the Portuguese landscape and the times spent there. There is something about the immediacy of the way the cologne structure delivers the scent that is perfect for conjuring memories. They are all constructed along the lines of a more conventional, transparent, citrus led, cologne, but each with its own special focus.

The SMN scents are all designated colognes, though if you've ever tried them, you'll know that they seem to have considerable staying power. The Patchouli in particular is a marvellous stripped back dank, camphourous scent. Not a classic hesperidic cologne at all. Perhaps for SMN it is just a convention to term these as colognes, because they certainly aren't all in the Aqua Parma tradition. I think there are a few that read like that, but the ones I own and used in January, felt more like conventional fragrances.

Other colognes I used include the classic 4711, as well as Guerlain's Eau de Cologne Imperiale, du Coq (which is like a cologne with a breath of Jicky chucked in) and the herbal/minty fresh Eau de Guerlain. These are all closer to the classic cologne structure exemplified by 4711. Again, with 4711, there are terribly strong associations with memories of my grandmother, where there was always a bottle or two of this in the bathroom. A whiff of 4711 always transports me back there. Perhaps there is something about the classic cologne formula which is very good at both imprinting and recalling memories, as the Claus Porto colognes also evoke very strong scent memories.

There were a couple of honorable mentions,Caron's Pour un Homme L'Eau, which isn't strictly an EDC but a freshened up and lighter reading version of the standard and some vintage No 5 EDC which most definitely is a glorious cologne, and is a bit of revelation as it was far more wearable as a unisex scent than I had imagined. I had acquired a bottle a couple of years ago, as part of an eBay purchase of a group of fragrances, and had never paid it much attention. In fact, No 5 EDC, is perhaps the sleeper vintage scent that needs re-discovering. Top notch ingredients, and a differently focussed composition, that looks more to the top notes and the musky animalic and woody base, and dials back on the heaviness of the jasmine and rose florals that are glorious but not so easy to pull off as a guy wearing the modern EDT and EDP iterations.

I think it is far too easy to dismiss the cologne as some rather outdated perfume form, and lust after ever stronger and more intense versions, and endless sillage and bombastic performance. However I think the cologne structure can deliver a really delightful scent experience for the wearer and by not giving off the sort of fumes that will knock out most flying insects at twenty paces, a much better experience for those around. It is unlikely that you'll fill a room with a cologne, but you will be able to experience some of the most delicate and clever perfumery, and after a few hours, you can either go back for more, or as you'll be left usually with a gentle musky skin scent, you can easily overlay a new scent, without fear of ruining it. If you are in the hands of vintage Chanel or Guerlain you get to smell very different orchestrations of some of their classics. Interestingly Chanel have recently introduced a line of new "Eaux" such as Paris-Biarritz etc, which are designated as EDTs but have the characteristics of older cologne style versions of some of their classics. So Paris-Biarritz seems to share a lot of DNA of Cristalle in a cologne presentation, Paris Venise is supposed to be rather like Coco, and so on and so forth. So perhaps all is not completely lost for the cologne style. Where Chanel leads others do tend to follow. There are a few EDCs such as in the Dior Homme line and Givenchy has introduced a cologne into into Givenchy Gentleman range which I want to try, that gives it the classic citrus twist. Hopefully it is a trend that continues to take hold.
 
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mikeperez23

Be Here. Now.
Basenotes Plus
Dec 31, 2006
Some great comments on this thread - thank you for taking up this topic slpfrsly :thumbsup:

I also enjoy Eau de Colognes, here and there, and I probably attribute this to Basenotes to 'teaching' me about this and learning from previous BN members all about the history of them; the volatility of the citrus oils that are used in many of them (and therefore why they fade so quickly); how many people store their bottles in the fridge and 'splash' them on in warm summer weather; etc.

Over the years I have tried almost all of the 'classic' Eau de Colognes and found many of them simply satisfying. With an emphasis, on "simply".

I also will echo what someone else mentioned already, earlier in the thread, that most niche houses these days spend much more time focusing on "modern" Eau de Colognes than do the big "designer" houses. Some that come to mind immediately are Kolonya by Rasei Fort (a *fantastic* cologne); Andy Tauer's Cologne du Maghreb; ELDO's Cologne; Frederic Malle's Cologne Indelible; Cologne Reloaded by Bogue Profumo; etc etc...

Acqua di Parma? They've sold their soul to the devil, in my opinion. No one is going into the stores to purchase Colonia these days. Nope. It's all about the hissy-woody-amber-based 'unisex' fragrances that they sell now - at astronomical prices that are not that good and last forever.
 

cheapimitation

Basenotes Dependent
May 15, 2015
Totally agree with this and I'm so torn about buying Chanel EDC! On one hand I think it is worth it for the ultimate cologne, on the other I think because it's so light I would definitely get the big bottle, then I think what am I doing spending $300 on an EDC!

I also find the idea of keeping that big bottle of Chanel EDC in the bathroom as a refresher after shower scent kinda indulgent and fabulous. :lolk:

If money was truly of no concern I'd do the same for Hermes Osmanthe Yunan which lasts all of 10 minutes to my nose, but what a beautiful 10 minutes!

So many other modern colognes try to extend the longevity with generic white musks which I can find annoying. The Chanel is great almost as much for what it is, as for what it is not. Like you said, there is nothing overly harsh or synthetic smelling in it, everything is just right.

I've gone through the Atelier Cologne line and I really hate how they dry down to some generic shampoo kinda white musk. Tried Heeley Oranges and Lemons as well recently and didn't like the dry down. I almost wish they would just let colognes be colognes and not try to extend them like this. The only one where I think that works beautifully is with Cologne Indelible where that is the whole concept and executed well by using a cocktail of interesting musks to keep it from smelling basic.

I also nearly bought MFK Petit Matin which is a lovely sparkling lemon and orange blossom again extended by a far too generic cocktail of musks. Each time I wear it I think oh yes I need this, only to be annoyed a few hours later by the dry down to what I believe Zealot Crusader called "bro-sauce".

I'm spending this winter in a warm climate and testing/wearing a lot more fragrances out of boredom which really makes me appreciate a short lived cologne. My favorites have been Chanel Paris-Deauville (a good cheaper alternative to Exclusives EDC I think) and Hermes Eau de Neroli Dore. And two Ellena's that aren't colognes but have a similar light sheer effect but leave a beautiful long lasting spice trail: Hermes Epice Marin and Malle Angelique Sous La Pluie

I've never tried the classic Acqua di Parma cologne, I'll have to give that a try before giving in to the Chanel.



In terms of the style, there is absolutely no wow-factor in Chanel's Eau De Cologne at all. None. This is a been-there done-that scent. We've all smelled it a million times before. But that's the point. Chanel made no attempt to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, the point was to perfect it while also giving it a modern profile. There's not a single hint of anything harsh here, nor is there anything that screams for attention. That's not what this scent is about. Chanel's Eau De Cologne is smooth and light yet surprisingly round and long lasting.

In my opinion, Chanel's Eau De Cologne is the ultimate example of setting a very high price on very high quality. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless because the quality of the materials used is so high, and the quality of the blend is also so high.
 

Brian5701

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
May 28, 2009
I'm a huge fan of eaux de cologne. Part of it is that I live in a Mediterranean climate and I think they seem made for it. It's warmer and drier than other places and I rarely find myself in the mood for an oud or fougere. Climate aside, I find them spiritually uplfting. I also think that the limited longevity is almost a blessing in that I've never had that feeling hours later, that the drydown is lasting too long and has outlived its welcome. You can douse yourself in an EdC the morning, then after lunch, switch scents entirely without any sort of clash.
I think LV Afternoon Swim and California Dream are both really nice, though spendy. Eau de Memo is also an interesting take. Hermes Pamplemousse Rose is an underrated gem IMO.
 

H_West

Basenotes Dependent
Oct 14, 2015
I love eau de colognes and that sort of style. I think they might be among my most worn scents. I love 'em! I think it might be due to the simplicity. They smell fresh and clean and are easy to wear. It's never wrong to smell just good. If a fragrance gets to special I'm having a hard time wearing it too often.

Some quick examples:
Chanel Eau de Cologne
Creed Pure White Cologne
Bergamotto Marino
Neroli Portofino
Colonia
Guerlain Eau de Cologne
Dior Cologne Royale
Castile
Allure Homme Sport Cologne

I bet I'm forgetting some good ones.
 

Opiate

Basenotes Dependent
Sep 19, 2010
Huge fan of EDC’s and how they wear. I especially love the old Italian style EDC’s. Unfortunately samples & vendors for those are rare and you pretty much have to blind buy full bottles to try them.

The problem I have with most EDC’s today is they are LOADED with cheap white musk(the “laundry” type). Pretty much the entire base is cheap musk and they’re built on it. Most use the same cheap white musk, not the good stuff. I know this because I have an allergic reaction to it and the tip of my tongue goes numb when I smell it. Channel’s Eau de cologne and Dior’s Cologne Royale are prime offenders. I once read that Francois Demachy (creator of Dior Cologne Royale) mainly wears Cologne Royale without the musk. That’s the stuff I want.

Hermès Eau d’orange verte is probably the edc I wear most. One of these days I’m just gonna break down and try to make my own edc.
 

Rabidsenses

Basenotes Dependent
May 10, 2019
I personally really enjoy the eau de cologne fragrance profile. I like the way they wear. They aren’t bombastic and I suppose they do kinda run against the grain of the modern zeitgeist with their short wear time.

Two that I particularly enjoy aside from the usual neroli/orange usual suspect are Helmut Lang EdC and Bottega Veneta Pour Homme. I’m wearing the latter right now, actually. Regarding the Bottega Veneta I’ve tried the Extreme and Parfum flankers but that was just an attempt to find a way to extend the longevity. But in the end this wasn’t satisfying because the profile I love changed. Why even go through this hassle when I already love the nuances of the original issue? This is the scent I want to experience. Sure, it’s also the scent I wish would last longer than a couple of hours. Unfortunately the flankers simply flirt with tonka, resins and decidedly sweeter compositions, thus weighing it down more, if not altogether recasting the seasons one can wear this.

But I really enjoy the Helmut Lang and BV as well as a number of my Summer EdC wares. It would be great if they remained around longer. But not by turning up the volume on the notes because that just changes things. So in the end I’ve made peace with the situation. I’ve come to appreciate the time that I do have. I’m content. Perhaps in hindsight some of the manifestations of our passions in life are the same ones that come and go like an eclipse.

Oh, and re-application after a few hours really doesn’t try my wits or my otherwise good constitution in the least. I figure we as humans refresh other things about ourselves several times a day, such as fix our hair, adjust a collar, put on some extra lip balm, etc., etc. If we can revamp our views that fleeting in fragrance is something to be hostile to then we can learn to appreciate a small re-application of something we enjoy. No biggie, really. Sure, if your eau de cologne sits somewhere north of $300+ per bottle you might not feel the same. And besides, once one reverts to Summertime EdCs a re-application sorta goes with the territory of the season. Summer is all about the need to constantly refresh oneself.

I’ve enjoyed reading this thread.
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I finally tried all of the Guerlain colognes and found them to be decent yet varied takes on the cologne genre.

As it is, I've settled on Fleurs de Cedrat as something of a swiss army knife fragrance. I've been wearing it to work, when it's been very hot (like the last few days), and it scratches the 'pure citrus' itch I always hoped could be satisfied.

I also think eau de Colognes lend a greater appreciation for other, heavier fragrances as well. Something that lasts a mere hour or two is a totally different experience to applying something that is a 12+ hour commitment.

I also bought a modern bottle of 4711 - I had only tried a vintage, oakmoss-laden version, and it's very good in its own right. As much as I like Heeley's St. Clement's, I think the current 4711 makes it redundant.

More love should be heaped on eau de Colognes as, quite possibly, the pinnacle of perfumery. Their relative marginalisation is everything that's wrong with the internet fragrance culture.
 

Ken_Russell

Basenotes Institution
Jan 21, 2006
I finally tried all of the Guerlain colognes and found them to be decent yet varied takes on the cologne genre.

As it is, I've settled on Fleurs de Cedrat as something of a swiss army knife fragrance. I've been wearing it to work, when it's been very hot (like the last few days), and it scratches the 'pure citrus' itch I always hoped could be satisfied.

I also think eau de Colognes lend a greater appreciation for other, heavier fragrances as well. Something that lasts a mere hour or two is a totally different experience to applying something that is a 12+ hour commitment.

I also bought a modern bottle of 4711 - I had only tried a vintage, oakmoss-laden version, and it's very good in its own right. As much as I like Heeley's St. Clement's, I think the current 4711 makes it redundant.

More love should be heaped on eau de Colognes as, quite possibly, the pinnacle of perfumery. Their relative marginalisation is everything that's wrong with the internet fragrance culture.


Enjoyed the description of Guerlain EDCs, seconding the vivid, relatable description of the simple yet classic and versatile beauty and craftiness found in these
 

Brian5701

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
May 28, 2009
Regarding popularity of colognes, I think it’s notable that there’s no new TF Neroli Portofino flanker this summer. Or really anything comparable from other lines. The closest I can think of is LV On the Beach from earlier this year.

Tastes changing?
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I don't think the eau de cologne style requires a defense: it's popular within and without the fragrance enthusiast community, and for something so supposedly simple, it supports a wide range of variations. I probably have dozens of different ones, though I haven't lined them up for a comparative survey.
 

slpfrsly

Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
Regarding popularity of colognes, I think it’s notable that there’s no new TF Neroli Portofino flanker this summer. Or really anything comparable from other lines. The closest I can think of is LV On the Beach from earlier this year.

Tastes changing?

They did bring back the Acqua version of NP but I'd imagine the pandemic will be the main factor in any commercial decisions for the present and near future.

I would expect that given the virus isn't going away any time soon, and with the rise of cleanliness and stranger-danger being a social norm, we might see a return to more socially polite forms of fragrance. The Eau de Cologne is exactly that.
 

mr. reasonable

Basenotes Dependent
Jan 1, 2009
Great thread! Hong Kong Spring / Summers are pretty fierce so I have a few EDC's on hand all the time - at home and at work.

Favourites include Guerlain Imperiale (classic) Eau de Guerlain (almost a chypre structure, touch of lemon verbena) Eau du Coq (touch of lavender) and Wasser's under-rated Cologne du Parfumeur, which has considerable depth and longevity . . . it punches above its weight, almost more of an EDT composition.

Villoresi's Aqua di Colonia is superb, the original AdP Colonia also a classic altho it has been diminished considerably since its release in the 90's, and have to give a respectful nod to the above - mentioned Roger & Gallet (I picked up a litre bottle here a couple of summers ago - all gone now :cheesy: )

I still have a few bottles of vintage Balmain - great lemon cologne, old school vibe.

There was a Dior Homme EDC floating around late 90's - really nice but I think it disappeared. It was an echo of the Dior Homme classic.

I think EDC's may be overlooked a bit, esp. amongst 'newer' fragrance purchasers because for many there is that 'bang for the buck' longevity thing that features so highly for a large swathe of the community . . . understandable, but there is a classic simplicity with EDC's, an understated elegance if you like, that goes a long way. Whatevs - no harm having a few different 'moods' on hand :thumbsup:
 

imm0rtelle

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 2, 2021
Great thread! Hong Kong Spring / Summers are pretty fierce so I have a few EDC's on hand all the time - at home and at work.

Favourites include Guerlain Imperiale (classic) Eau de Guerlain (almost a chypre structure, touch of lemon verbena) Eau du Coq (touch of lavender) and Wasser's under-rated Cologne du Parfumeur, which has considerable depth and longevity . . . it punches above its weight, almost more of an EDT composition.

Villoresi's Aqua di Colonia is superb, the original AdP Colonia also a classic altho it has been diminished considerably since its release in the 90's, and have to give a respectful nod to the above - mentioned Roger & Gallet (I picked up a litre bottle here a couple of summers ago - all gone now :cheesy: )

I still have a few bottles of vintage Balmain - great lemon cologne, old school vibe.

There was a Dior Homme EDC floating around late 90's - really nice but I think it disappeared. It was an echo of the Dior Homme classic.

I think EDC's may be overlooked a bit, esp. amongst 'newer' fragrance purchasers because for many there is that 'bang for the buck' longevity thing that features so highly for a large swathe of the community . . . understandable, but there is a classic simplicity with EDC's, an understated elegance if you like, that goes a long way. Whatevs - no harm having a few different 'moods' on hand :thumbsup:

I'm also a big fan of Guerlain's Eau de Cologne Impériale. The original Dior Homme Cologne was actually released in 2007 and discontinued around 2013, even if it feels like a million years ago. I agree that colognes won't appeal to the crowd with the "bang for buck" mentality. To me, it is really the ultimate in the category of "wearing for myself" type of fragrances.
 
Jul 7, 2012
I would expect that given the virus isn't going away any time soon, and with the rise of cleanliness and stranger-danger being a social norm, we might see a return to more socially polite forms of fragrance.

It will be interesting to see if that happens. During the worst of the pandemic, I started to notice that I got frustrated if I could smell somebody wearing fragrance - not because I didn't like the scent, but rather, because smelling somebody's scent meant they were too close.
 

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