Ten Pins area, The Needles of South Dakota. Yes, this has nothing to do with fragrance.
Having not had my usual fill of fragrant activities lately, it was with great happiness that I took up my wife’s offer to go to Macy*s for their “VIP Sale”. This, despite neither being a VIP, nor knowing any – at least outside of that world-wide insane asylum known as “the fragrance community”.
Although I did once get a “like” on Twitter, from a very minor celebrity, who is known to, and generally despised by, most other celebrities.
But don’t worry. If you have money, Macy*s will let you into their VIP sale!
Knowing that I would get at least a few minutes in the men’s fragrance section, I was even more fortunate to learn that we would be going to one particular Macy*s where one is “forced” to walk through the women’s fragrances, too. Oh, the pain.
When it was over, I walked back to the car, having smelled 10 – scratch that – 11 blotters, and having liked every one of them. This, I did not expect. Thus, while I would rather not have to bother with yet another trip report, I felt it was some kind of duty to fragrance itself to NOT let this moment pass into non-VIP fragrance obscurity, forever lost.
Thus, this post.
I think I own every member of the Dior Homme clan except this one, which I resist buying on general principle. It’s like the Navajo rug thing – there must be an imperfection in my Dior Homme sub-collection, lest the completeness offend Gurzeus, Smellah, The Great Fragrance, or whatever you want to call THE LORD.
Still, that does not prevent me from liking Dior Homme Cologne. I just refuse to buy it. And indeed, upon sniffing once again, I was pleasantly surprised by just how awesome this fragrance actually is. The resemblance to the latest Dior Homme Sport 2017 was not lost on me, and owning that one, I have a ready-made non-religious excuse for not owning Dior Homme Cologne as well. Likewise, DHC smalls a bit like Prada’s Luna Rossa Eau Sport, which I have on my “potential unnecessary buy” list, thus excusing me from the need to purchase for that reason as well.
But let’s be honest here. I was poised to keep smelling every damn thing on the counter, so buying the very first item I smelled was immediately classified as “what the hell are you thinkin’, boy?” stuff. AS IF. Time to “move on”, as it were.
This one was very high on my test list, and now it is somewhere near the bottom of my “buy” list. I feel like it has some virtues, but none of them were the ones I had hoped for.
The packaging, it turns out, is not nearly as impressive in real life, as it is in photos. It just felt very underwhelming. The color isn’t that vivid. The little nick in the edge seems puny and understated. The whole effect – much less deserving of a pedestal in the art gallery. And the smell? Overall, just very generic and cookie-cutter.
And yet, there is something about the fragrance that intrigues. There is a sharp, piercing, and sustained note – something like the wolf-whistle of Sauvage toned down about 50 decibels – which is very pleasant. It’s smooth, clear, and perfectly suited to daily wear. Once you actually perceive the good part, the fragrance has legs. It reminds me of Creed Silver Mountain Water in many ways. That’s not a bad one at all, and easily recommended.
SO – I will keep thinking about YSL Y. If it grows on my any more, it may get bought.
Were I to craft one of those Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez two-word classifications of this scent, it would be “not Obsession“. Oh, I will admit that the night-and-day difference is not 100%. Smelling the blotter four hours later, there is a hint of the oriental greatness of Obsession For Men in the basenotes of Obsessed For Men. However, it would be utterly misleading to even suggest that this Kenneth Cole-like fragrance is anything close to the old CK classic. No. Don’t even think about it. Approach this fragrance as something completely different, if you don’t want to be disappointed.
That said, Obsessed For Men just isn’t that bad. My immediate reaction was one of positive enjoyment – a kind of generic fragrance déjà vu that had me flipping uselessly through my scent memory for whatever in the hell this smells like. I’m sure it’s some aromachemical blast from the past, but whatever it is, it’s quite fine. Obsessed For Men is basically a lightly citrus, lightly marine, lightly floral melange with a surprisingly non-chemical feel compared to most recent CK fragrances. Not quite as androgynous as similar CK fragrances, it’s still an easy wear for the ladies.
SO – if you buy this fragrance, you won’t be getting any rolled eyes here. I may even hit you up for a spray. But unless there is some kind of olfactory breakthrough, where I just start “getting” this scent at five-star levels of enjoyment, I seriously doubt I will buy this one in a store that is not called “Marshall’s”. Good, but not great.
This – on the other hand – is a true embarrassment. One of the real standouts of the afternoon adventure turned out to be a Hugo Boss fragrance. And not just any Boss fragrance. BLUE JUICE.
UGH! I am totally ashamed. I actually LIKE the new Hugo Boss scent!
At some point in my life, for reasons I won’t get into, other than to mine them for as much humor as possible, I had a girlfriend who is perfectly represented by Hugo Boss fragrances. Frankly, it was only in the utter rejection of that part of my life, as well as Hugo Boss fragrances, that I finally found some kind of true meaning in life. And yet, ironically, we were both left as better people for having found and left each other. It was more than wrong – it was necessary.
So, for both my wife and I to really enjoy this particular, ultimately generic, quintessentially Hugo Boss, unabashedly blue juice – well, it hurts, but in a rather poignant and relieving way.
It’s like finding some old Hugo Boss suit that I could have worn in that doomed relationship, and – rather than just throwing it out – instead putting it on, tearing all the pockets out, while cursing her name but begging forgiveness, finding 500 bucks in a secret inner pocket, saying “THANK YOU, GOD”, and THEN throwing it out.
Does that make sense? Probably not. In any case, trust me – you don’t want Hugo Boss for a girlfriend, unless THE LORD has some kind of plan to kick you in the ass for your own good.
So what is this blue juice like? Surprisingly, it’s a bit like Jil Sander Sander For Men, the latter being one of the more respectable blue juices out there.
In fact, I would go so far as to say Hugo Boss Tonic is every bit as likable as Sander For Men, but much more current, and enjoyably different. The “hook note” is different, but the overall effect is the same – “blue juice with an awesome difference”. The opening sillage is fun, the projection is adequate, the persistence is reasonably good, and the “normal” of the whole thing is relaxing but not boring. You might even enjoy getting caught wearing this stuff, and divulging the identity to your shocked perfume buddies.
However, if you REALLY want interesting, stick around.
Emporio Armani Stronger With You (the one on the left in the image above) has to be the most original fragrance I smelled at Macy*s that day. The somewhat presumptively male partner of a cautiously gendered twin set (along with Because It’s You, the lightly designated feminine), Stronger With You has an immediately arresting set of accords that take a moment to figure out. My wife immediately noted the vanilla, but that isn’t what really makes this one different to my nose.
If you begin to wonder whether this one might actually be the FEMALE-gendered fragrance of the pair, then you have discovered what I, personally, regard as the secret of this fragrance – a strong, classic, and unwaveringly feminine “sub-perfume”. Not merely an accord, this complex “super-accord” reminds me of the great Trésor – which coincidentally but perhaps not unintentionally has the same representative cue color:
It’s hard to describe the overall nature of this fascinating part of the fragrance, but it’s worth digging into, just a bit. First, let’s look at the Armani talking points:
Stronger With You lives in the present, molded by the energy of modernity. Unpredictable, he surprises with his originality, like the spicy accord in the top notes – a mix of cardamom, pink peppercorn, and violet leaves.
The fragrance for men has inherited a confident elegance, with the easy nonchalance of youth, conveyed by the sage at his aromatic heart.
The scent communicates with sensuality: the smoky Vanilla Jungle Essence™ falls in love with the sugar coated chestnut accord, succumbing to his magnetism: STRONGER WITH YOU.
Discover the power of two with Because It’s You – For Her. The two fragrances have an alliance that balance & empower each other, as symbol of powerful love.
Or in pictures:
Ah, yes, those were the days! Climbing! And hair!
Comparing with the Lancôme’s brief description of the complexity of Trésor we see that there is little to connect the two.
The elegance of rose, mugent [sic] and lilac and the sparkle of peach and apricot blossom are just a few notes that define this luminous fragrance.
Still, I think Lancôme has highlighted precisely what is so distinctive in Stronger With You – florals and fruits that are normally reserved for feminines. I can readily surmise which aromachemicals got some extra play to make that happen, but why spoil the fun? Combine these with vanilla, and perhaps the smoky chestnuts and whatnot, and we’re probably looking at the makings of a great classic feminine right there.
So – did I fork out the cash for this extraordinary fragrance?
HA! Get real, amigos. If you’re not passing on the great ones, you’re not snarkin’ with the big dogs.
Away, fine fragrance. We want FINER STILL.
So – what was my excuse for not buying this one? Ah – you’ve got my number now!
Yes, as I toyed with more awesome fragrances that I had no intention of buying, I smelled this one, which I can easily reject as being “too similar” to the great Acqua di Giò Profumo, which I already have and love.
So how similar is Profumo Special Blend? VERY. It is FAR from a necessary purchase, if you have Profumo. Yet it’s also different enough that I can easily recommend for true aficionados of the line to run out and buy Special Blend, if you’re feeling flush and would feel terribly guilty at the thought of missing a limited edition. If you think Profumo is a five-star fragrance, as I do, and you want a little variation on the theme, then this is a great way to get it.
I would be hard-pressed to describe the difference here, except perhaps to say that it has a touch of a bit of a suggestion of a spicy vibe – a woodiness which departs ever so slightly from that classic ADG quintessence – that je ne sais quoi which runs like a perfect vector through Acqua di Giò, Essenza, and Profumo. The Armani website says that Special Blend has a special ethical Guatemalan patchouli, and hints at other tweaks, but nothing is really clearly stated. I didn’t do a side-by-side test with Profumo, just a brief sniff from a paper tester, so no gospel here. To your nose, they may smell identical.
So should you buy it?
In the same way that I’ll never buy Polo Blue EDT, I’ll never buy Polo Blue EDP. However, if I had to recommend one, I’d definitely recommend the EDP. Every time I smell this one, I enjoy it thoroughly. Perhaps not as much this time as the last, but still – the more concentrated EDP here is a definite improvement.
For me, Polo Blue EDT has always been a “nothing fragrance”. Barely registering with my schnozz, it always struck me as painfully generic, despite the fact that many respected Basenotes noses spoke highly of it. However, when the EDP hit the stores, I finally understood. Yes, still somewhat generic, but GOOD generic. I’m still not sure why it’s even part of the Polo line, because to my nose it is NOTHING like Polo, but it doesn’t matter. A nice fragrance – particularly in the EDP.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I may end up getting a bottle of Polo Red Extreme, someday. As an early fan of Polo Red, I was quite excited by the Intense flanker, but I had to admit that it simply wasn’t different enough for me to consider it. But when I first smelled the Extreme flanker, I knew immediately that I was “at risk” for a buy.
Polo Red Extreme has a slightly oudy, sharp, nose-grabby vibe which nicely augments the fluffy white powder aspects of the original. A bit of rubbery “coffeewood”, but not too much, brings back fond memories of other modern masculine orientals.
Nice. Definitely a keeper. But was I going to buy it?
LOOK! What’s that over there?
I was definitely in danger of buying this one. I have some vintage Pi that I’ve sat on for years, and never wear. I fully expected the Extreme to feel dated and “too vintage” for my rather modernist tastes.
Happily, or perhaps unhappily, I can report that Pi Extreme is an AWESOME mix of classic and modern styles – one which smells VERY contemporary, yet is fully Pi as we knew it and loved it. A bit less vanilla, a bit less oakmoss, a bit more amber, and a bit more leather. Then tweak in some nice nuances that balance it all out, and you’ve got one heck of a nice fragrance.
I might have toyed with the idea of buying Pi Extreme, had my wife not jumped in and asked me about a fragrance in the case next to the Givenchy offerings. A fragrance with which I was already quite familiar, and which is thus not a part of the ten I am reviewing for the first time.
My wife ABSOLUTELY loves this bottle, as do I. Lacoste L.12.12 Blanc is also one which I came VERY close to buying at one time, mostly for the scent itself. Fortunately, I got over this fragrance, as more and more powdery “clean” men’s scents filled both my wardrobe and my scent memory.
I asked my wife if she would wear it – to which she responded with a resounding NO. She just liked the bottle.
And that was all the excuse I needed to move on.
On the way out of Macy’s, I saw THIS new fragrance, Chanel Gabrielle, in a magnificent new bottle, and I just HAD to try it. Having smelled Gabrielle on paper, from an insert in a Saks Fifth Avenue catalog, I knew roughly what to expect. However, the enjoyable reality of this fragrance on a blotter, sprayed from a bottle, vastly exceeded even the high end of what I had expected.
Just for starters, the performance is excellent. Nearly 8 hours after spraying that little white Chanel card in Macy*s, Gabrielle is still going, almost as strong as it was after the initial sillage wore down, maybe 5 hours ago. The total fragrance is holding its form wonderfully, too, just like most if not all Chanel fragrances do. No off notes, no breakup of the white flower accord, no scratchy base notes. The quality is there – believe me.
Then there’s the bottle. Very nice. The glass is beveled inwards on both front and back – something I did not expect due to a wonderful forced perspective optical illusion. Concave sides being somewhat rare in perfume bottles, and having never seen a “spoiler photo” of Gabrielle showing the concave faces, I fully expected the glass to be beveled outwards. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see that I was wrong, and the bottle is in fact very easy to pick up by the edges.
And the fragrance? Fascinating.
For starters, Gabrielle is one of the most androgynous white flower fragrances EVER. Knowing that the four white flowers of the central accord included one I don’t generally like, I was feeling a sort of tuberose terror before that first sniff of the perfumed insert. But once I had that sniff, I learned the truth. Not only is Gabrielle nowhere near a tuberose monster – it actually has a bit of “dude potential”. But you really don’t know such a thing until you actually smell the fragrance, so I needed this sniff. And now I know for sure – Gabrielle‘s “gender” is wonderfully abstract, and clearly goes along with the various Kristen Stewart marketing photos.
From the viewpoint of my nose, Stronger With You seems more “old school feminine” than Gabrielle. Nevertheless, I still think Gabrielle is rightly categorized as a feminine fragrance. My wife certainly agrees on that point, too.
One can easily draw a line in “fragrance gender space” through Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, Chanel No. 5 L’Eau, and Chanel Gabrielle. Next stop? If you ask me, pure unisex. I have yet to smell Chanel Boy, but I will bet it’s very close to being on that line, possibly on the men’s side.
Women need not fear that this one will be too “boyish”, but men need not fear it as too “girly”, either.
My wife really liked Gabrielle, so it will undoubtedly get bought for her – but it is ultimately destined for joint custody, just like my bottle of No. 5 L’Eau ended up becoming her default “going out for lunch” fragrance.
So where did the tuberose go? Honestly, I don’t care (although the answer, it turns out, is here). The white flower abstraction in this juice is so fine, and so fine-tuned, it borders on mathematics instead of perfumery. I don’t really WANT to know why I’m not getting it. It is the CLARITY of the thing which I enjoy the most. It’s less clear but more subtle than L’Eau. It’s pure Chanel without the baggage of No. 5 and its legacy. Gabrielle is entirely new, and is writing it’s own story. I really, really like that.
I feel like Olivier Polge came through big-time on this one, even though I know that many people seem to have expected something where more is more, and not like this fragrance, where (in my opinion) less is more. But, I will admit – I’m a sucker for almost anything that either Polge does, but especially Olivier. I have to laugh at how much of his stuff I own, but when I consider how much of his stuff is on my “buyable but resisting” list – well, it’s downright scary.
Anyway, he took a great picture with Ms. Stewart. My perfume hero!
SO – there you have it. A day well-spent.
Hope you’re having a wonderful fall. Time to start thinking about those fall fragrances and holiday gifts.