Kiton Men by Kiton (1996)

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Kiton Men (1996) is an anecdotal little blip of a scent in the grand scheme of how perfumes for men developed throughout the 1990’s, but offers something close to an alternate reality version of what was popular at the time, accidently becoming both a sleeper hit and a presage to gradual developments in the niche perfume sector. The brand that controls the Kiton line ultimately landed in the hands of Estée Lauder Companies, so who knows what they’re doing with it now (if anything), but bottles of this still exist in what I’ve seen to be two different package variations. Regardless of unknown production status, the scent remains a low-key treasure for collectors in the fragrance community and I can see why: Kiton Men effectively blends violet traits from Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985) and chypre traits from Creed Aventus (2010), then peppers this amalgamation with bits and bobs of “fresh 90’s” design. What you get here is a chypre variation on the “fresh fougère” phenomenon, and a designer-level masterclass of perfume wizardry that stands a decade apart from both of the niche scents it merges, one of which wouldn’t even exist yet for 14 years. Some have made mention to this bearing a resemblance to Dior Fahrenheit (1988), but the violet found in that scent is far more kick-to-the-huevos than the genteel variety here. If any of that above sounds like its gonna be crazy good, then that’s because it is, and you can take that statement to the bank.

The first thing you’ll notice in the opening of Kiton Men, is a smooth pineapple note very reminiscent of the aforementioned Creed Aventus, but sweeter and rounder thanks to the absence of tart blackcurrant or bergamot which that later scent uses to flatten the note. Instead, you have a drier bergamot the likes of which many fresh fougères used in the 90’s, coupled with some soft lemon. Into the heart you’ll find clary sage, a beautiful violet, and some muguet. Together, these create a clean floral lift similar to the erstwhile Green Irish Tweed and Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel (1975), with touches of geranium that link to metallic office fougères of the era. In particular, I’m reminded of a balance being struck between something like Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme (1994), and another underdog called Le Roy Soleil Homme by Salvador Dali (1998), particularly with the tropical pineapple and geranium mixing with a tobacco note which recalls the D&G in the base. All the violet and muguet goodness rides over top of this, until a clean white musk and oakmoss conclude the experience with traces of a dry wood note. The musk might be something like timberol, because I know ambroxan was not an affordable aromachemical then and still mostly used by Creed until the 2010’s, but there is a bit of that “mineral musk” vibe ambergris/ambrox gives off. Performance is a bit middling all around, but with such a knockout combo, reapplying shouldn’t be an issue. I’d call this spring through fall and office-friendly too, since Kiton Men feels very versatile and could easily handle both work and play thanks to it’s footing in both places structurally.

On one hand, taking a chypre approach to the “fresh” phenomenon of the 1990’s sounds like a novel and extremely promising new perfumery branch if done today, but on the other, deviating from the fresh fougère or aquatic format in the 1990’s when this released also seems a bit like Neanderthal thinking amidst an age when the Cro-Magnon was coming to power. Taking this into consideration, I can see why Kiton Men remains underground with only a single flanker to its name, and why scant information is available on it in general. Whether discontinued or just made in very limited quantities, Kiton Men isn’t the cheapest or easiest blind buy out there, but still costs less than a quarter of what anything Creed makes will run you, so getting a sample before pouncing on what’s available online is in order if unsure. If you’re confident you’ll like the scent profile here, I’d say just pull the trigger and sell if you hate it, because fans of either Creed it compares to may see this as a good economical compromise between two of that house’s heaviest hitters on the men’s market side, without being a clone. I mean, what’s not to love about something that smells both fresh and youthful enough to be inviting but also mature and quality enough to be taken seriously as daily wear? Whoever perfumed this for the house was onto something good, and had this scent come out under a brand like Ralph Lauren, would have been a much bigger part of the conversation than it was. Kiton Men is likely the most innovative and enjoyable designer masculine scent from 1996 you’ve never heard of, until now. Thumbs up.

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