Deauville pour Homme by Michel Germain (1999)

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Deauville Pour Homme (1999) came at the end of a decade full of soft, inoffensive, and apologetic masculines based around edgy aquatic aromachemicals like dihydromyrcenol and calone, or pillowy lavender, iris, apple, tobacco, musk, and some limited oakmoss usage before it was restricted. Like with other scents made right at the end of this very beige reactionary period to the erstwhile loud, mossy, animalic, and virile 80’s output, Deauville Pour Homme tries to branch out into something more unique while still being dapper and controlled. Increasingly sharp and ozonic citrus scents ended up being the juice of choice for a millenial generation of young men looking to rebel against the bland, but other ideas were revisited, like the green revivals of Gucci, Jacomo, Calvin Klein, and Salvatore Ferragamo, while the semi-orientals by designers like Boucheron, Chanel, and evidently Michel Germain gave an alternative to the ozonic that wasn’t directly a throwback. The smell of Deauville Pour Homme is not as far off from his previous “Séxual” line as it’s prim and proper name suggests, and is also a fougère/oriental hybrid like Séxual Pour Homme (1997), just minus the cheesy tone-deaf imagery. Deauville Pour Homme Shares a trait with other early Michel Germain scents, in that it was composed by Michel himself, and the Québécois perfumer was arguably niche at the time since he focused primarily on perfumes and only recently moved to be more of a designer with apparel and designer-like appointments of other perfumers to new Michael Germain-named creations. That being said, Michel Germain is not of typical niche quality, and one should expect a good deal of synthetics and moderate performance at most from Deauville Pour Homme. I wouldn’t pay a ton of money for this, but it also shouldn’t be hard to find for a good price, being useful as a late summer through winter dumb grab to work or a dinner date, just so long as it isn’t a five star restaurant requiring a dress code. A few flankers of this would manifest later on, but are seemingly online exclusives sold at full retail from Michel Germain himself, so you’ll have to fly blind and really bite the bullet to try them, unlike this discount gem which can be had at any discount/overstock reseller like Marshall’s, Ross, and the like.

This scent opens with a soft and rounded lavender and sage push, with sweet clementine and a bit of bergamot to convey the familiar barbershop tandem along. The onset of Deauville sets the stage for what is a powdery semi-oriental affair with a soapy twist that seemingly belongs more the the late 80’s early 90’s boom of that genre, particularly with it’s clementine usage and soapy orris/sharp iris tandem. Thyme, nutmeg, and white peppercorn further ease us into a light dusting of spice and herbs which combines with the round top, kindling a glow similar to Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentrée (1989) or Tiffany for Men (1989) but without the petitgrain of the former or sandalwood of the latter. Obviously this is lacking one Jacques Polge pedigree (sorry Michel) despite the comparisons, but is nice “enough” to pass. By the dry down, we begin to see that we aren’t dealing with the average semi-oriental, as it doesn’t have a creamy woods and vanilla base like so many of this ilk, but rather a bit more astringent and powdery tobacco and amber base with a dab of oakmoss, and a multifaceted orris root which delivers a clean vibe but also the sharp “makeup” iris found in the later Dior Homme (2005). Deauville Pour Homme ends in a “semi-oriental lite” bed of pleasant powdery clean, feeling like it was made for a mature man that wanted to keep a finger on the pulse of what was new, without explicitly smelling like it. This stuff has none of the richness, silage, nor longevity of anything in the style it utilizes, making it in some ways perfect for the man looking for a lighter scent in an oriental vein, unless the presence of iso E super and a laundry musk in the base is a deal breaker. There’s no escaping that Deauville Pour homme is a scent of entry-level-designer quality from the end of the 90’s, and while that doesn’t bother me, it’s soap and powder in place of richer woods and spices may be too much of a compromise to quality for some, as a genre like this is usually not so stubbornly “clean” in tone, but rather redolent and sometimes animalic. I don’t get a ton of tobacco myself next to that powdery amber and oakmoss base, but if you really sit with this on the nose for a while, you can definitely tell it’s in there.

Blending is admittedly not great here either, but I’m not going to knock a cheapie for being cheap when it’s executed with this much aplomb. Michel Germain wanted to make something classier, a bit more natural, and more work-safe after the heady “CK Eternity on Steroids” that was both initial male and female iterations of the gaudy “Séxual” line for which he is arguably more known. Deauville was the answer, and despite his Canadian roots, Michel took direct aim at the famous city in the Normandy region of France instead of more local inspiration, and the city of Deauville is often cited as inspiration for French perfumers and designers anyway. Deauville Pour Homme fits in the same class of “late 90’s ambiguity” as Chanel Allure Homme (1999) and Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme (1999), both ironically also Jacques Polge scents like the aforementioned Pour Monsieur and Tiffany for Men which Deauville Pour Homme emulates, making me believe that perhaps Michel Germain was a fan of Polge. Whether you want to call this a “poor man’s Polge” scent or just another product of 90’s fragrance malais that didn’t really have a place, Deauville Pour Homme is surprisingly wearable in spite of it. I think it’s hard to classify these kind of scents, because not even the perfumers themselves seemed to know where they wanted to go next after all those aquatics, poofy freshies and radioactive citrus ozonics assaulted us as penance for a half-century of amazing perfume, but it’s clear that semi-oriental fougère tones or revisited green aromatics were a direction many sought to take masculines before a second wave of aquatics was eventually decided upon. Many unfortunately stayed that cookie cutter course, but when scents like Deauville Pour Homme came along to challenge the norm, even if only slightly, it was something worth gravitating towards. I don’t think Deauville Pour Homme seems very challenging today, but wearing it is like wearing a mature-looking, comfortable cardigan sweater you picked up for cheap from a Marshall’s, It’s cheap but well-made, and presentable yet relaxed enough that people will notice you don’t quite fit in step with them but won’t stop to stare. Bonus cool points for the wicked sharp bottle, which is unintentionally louder and more exciting than the understated scent it contains.

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