The Les Royales Exclusifs collections represents the top shelf of an already expensive and exclusive brand that literally prides itself as being such. Taking the concept of Veblen goods and conspicuous consumption to one of the furthest degrees imaginable one can perhaps take a perfume brand that isn’t bespoke per-client, Creed had outdone itself when introducing the collection, particularly on the heels of then-recent successes that allowed the house to jack up prices exponentially in a short order, giving social class distance between themselves and their niche perfume peers. Stroking the egos of the nouveau riche with affected marketing ploys and old money alike with claims of royal pedigree, Creed is good at teasing the money out of billionaires and the white collar pseudo-rich, so the idea of a range that’s even more elevated than their already ridiculously-priced standard line isn’t all that incredulous, although most of what is in that range doesn’t really smell more elevated. Creed Sublime Vanille (2009) would be the first in this upper-ten series, followed by Creed Spice & Wood (2010), then a rehash of Original Colonge/Pure White Cologne (2011), and the introduction of Jardin d’Amalfi (2011), White Flowers (2011), and relative silence until White Amber (2017) finally came along. Of all those, Creed Spice & Wood gets the most talk, and I can sort of see why, since this mostly feels like something that could have also been released in the main line as the next big male pillar for the house too, but strangely wasn’t.
The first thing to realize here is this came out the same year as Creed Aventus (2010), the fragrance that took the place of Green Irish Tweed (1985) as the flagship scent for the house and would further go on to be the defining moment for the brand, establishing it’s “high-end mass-appeal” style going forward and causing the house to vault literally everything not that (including all the more classically-designed eau de toilette range). Spice & Wood by comparison feels a bit more of a “let’s play catch up” with the benchmarks making the rounds in the men’s niche and designer market at the time like L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu (2004) and Terre d’Hermès (2006). Creed utilizes a very sharp airy woody chypre structure similar in many respects to the work in Timbuktu here in Spice & Wood, but infuses a bit of the old “Royal French Perfumer” hullabaloo into the mix to make it feel higher-end. The opening has lemon, bergamot, and a dry crisp green apple note we would see again in Creed Vetiver Geranium (2014) from the Acqua Originale line. Beyond this, we get a very Hermès-like transparency, with a dry patchouli heart free from the usual heft of full natural patchouli, but the arrangement is different since the focus is on birch tar, pepper, pimento, and angelica root rather than anything mineralic. a hint of clove creeps in but before long a familiar Creed house ambergris note is joined by oakmoss and Iso E Super. The birch and ambergris mixed with the apple top draw parallels to Aventus, but this is nowhere near as sweet. Wear time is about 8 hours but Spice & Wood wears rather light, making it best in warmer weather casual or office situations spring through fall.
For me, this sorta presages the thing Dolce & Gabanna K (2019) would do for men with it’s combination of bergamot, dry blood orange, and pimento over ambroxan, but tosses in some apple and dry spices to give the Creed a bit of autumnal feel. Part of me feels like this may also have been considered by Olivier as one of the formulas from Jean-Christophe Herault used for Aventus, with what ended up in that bottle winning out instead for being just a bit more youth-friendly and mass-appeal, since it was clear after 2010 that Creed was trying to move back into “mature rich men” scents like Bois du Portugal (1987), and Creed Himalaya (2002), as those captured the hearts of their target demographic the same way Green Irish Tweed, while all the fresher and more youthful fare ended up lauded by online fragrance enthusiast who bought their bottles on the gray market at a cut rate. Spice & Wood honestly would have been another such example had it been dubbed Aventus and shipped out to counters in place of what we ended up getting, but it was likely spared that fate and shipped out as a fancy Les Royals Exclusifs fragrance, because Creed was likely looking for a blockbuster to pump up the value of his brand for eventual sale. As a mature cousin to Aventus that borrows elements from woody masculines like Terre d’Hermès, Spice & Wood is a winner to me, but whether or not it informed the creation of D&G’s K doesn’t make much of a difference, since at $575 for 7ml (or nearly a grand for a 250ml flacon), Spice & Wood is only worth considering if it’s a deep love or if you have deep pockets, especially due to its light performance. Thumbs up.