Armand Basi Homme (2000) feels like a test-build for Armani Code/Black Code (2004), which says all most people will need to know about the stuff. This is your now-common powdery spicy men’s office fragrance built on tonka and vanilla then carried off by wisps of oakmoss and woody amber aroma molecules, prim and proper. Some people into exceedingly clean scents with a hint of bad boy spice may actually find this sexy, and I guess there is a certain appeal to that, but not for me. I wasn’t much a fan of the snoozefest that is Armani Code, and despite this feeling a bit more complex (also read: less defined), it isn’t quite enough for me to move the needle from tolerate to enjoy. That being said, I can appreciate what Olivier Cresp has tried to do with the light semi-oriental fougère structure here, and it smells more thought-out and sophisticated than most things in the same bloodline, even if I’d never reach for it myself.
The opening of Armand Basi is sweet citrus and cardamom with bits of cinnamon and some medicinal lavandin in place of rounder lavender to give a bit of that powdery fougère feeling. The cardamom does the heavy lifting in the opening but soon the heart of dusty nutmeg and white florals becomes the core of the wear. You have to like nutmeg to really enjoy Armand Basi Homme because it’s very prominent next to the cardamom and lavandin. Unlike the later Armani Code, there’s no weird waxy olive flower but there is a dry guiac wood note like in Code alongside whatever softer (and thus better) woody amber compounds were standing in for the later more-intense itchy ones found in Code, smoothed over by heaps of tonka. A bit of extra vanilla helps keep the woody amber base in check and a sliver of oakmoss also adds some natural vibrato to the final dry down. Wear time is about 6 hours so that’s a tad short for a day-long office wear, but sillage is appropriately polite but present. Keep the bottle in your desk drawer if this is your daily driver.
Luckily, it seems like people like this enough that it stayed on the market despite its relative obscurity and trouncing in the face of “greater” competition from Armani, especially considering Code all but stole Armand Basi Homme’s thunder. This means bottles should be relatively inexpensive, and even less than Armani Code sells for at discount, making Armand Basi Homme a cost-effective alternative where you’re only dinged slightly on performance but get a smoother more-original take on the idea in return. I mean hey, this stuff did technically come first right? Should it ever be discontinued (as tends to happen with scents from these obscure B-movie type discounter darling fragrances houses), you can always just pick up Code instead. Armand Basi would release Basi Homme (2001) the very next year, which is an upped-ante version of the same idea found here, a bit stronger and punchier, but still in the powdery warm spicy semi-oriental fougère vein. If this sounds like a good time to you, check both of them out, it’s not just for me man. Neutral