Author Archives: Derek Mohr

Davidoff by Davidoff (1984)

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The perfume arm of Davidoff began grandly enough with this eponymous debut fragrance, simply called Davidoff (1984) but sometimes also referred to as “Davidoff Original” to avoid confusion with Zino Davidoff (1986), since that used the full name of the founder and could technically be called eponymous too. As you can probably guess, Davidoff is a tobacco-themed fragrance as is befitting of a company known up until this point for its cigars and luxury cigarettes, but transposed onto the chypre form. Edouard Flechier was tapped to compose this, and some of the floral tobacco design aesthetic of Davidoff (Original) would make its way into the later Montana Parfum d’Homme (1989) he would also compose, except placed onto a smoother fougère framework. Davidoff (Original) itself has an underlying big-boned animalic leather/patchouli chypre base that places it in league with Ralph Lauren Polo (1978) and Trussardi Uomo (1983), but also seems to make it a missing link between those scents and similar animalic leather/patchouli chypres like Boss/Boss Number One by Hugo Boss (1985) and Balenciaga Ho Hang Club/Le Club de Balenciaga (1987). Lastly, Jean-Louis Vermeil would seemingly make a one for one copy of this scent’s dry down with a fragrance originally called Guépard by Jean-Louis Vermeil (1996), later changed just to Vermeil by Jean-Louis Vermeil (1997) after a legal dispute with another perfume house holding the same name as a trademark. Considering that scent was housed in a fancy bottle shaped like a lighter and packaged in a felt-lined case, it’s safe to say it may have been an early attempt at an upscale clone, something that is now commonplace with niche houses copying designer styles. Whatever the case may be, the ripples of Davidoff (Original) have been felt even if the scent itself is long-discontinued.

The opening of Davidoff (Original) has everything a fan of loud and booming animalic chypre powerhouses could expect from a fragrance: it’s sour and musky with lemon, lime, and bergamot dusted with civet, bitter with herbs like artemisia and basil to slap you in the face faster than your mother after saying a swear word at the dinner table, then slowly lights a cigar in triumph. The tobacco comes in floral and almost like a Cohiba, except not a Cohiba because this is Davidoff we’re talking about, so just pretend it smells like one of their cigars instead. Indolic jasmine furthers the muskiness, while carnation and orris root do some waxy spicy things on skin through the dandy-ish middle. Oakmoss is also a huge part of this and you will smell it in full force much like Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1986), one of the mossiest chypres on earth, alongside healthy dry wood notes of cedar and sandal. The base is a mix of castoreum leather, pasty musky labdanum, the aforementioned oakmoss and woods, plus the tobacco accord which must at least in part be powered by some tonka. The oakmoss and the animalic component make themselves felt the most but they join hands with the tobacco and labdanum with a late-stage patchouli, making Davidoff on one hand feel brusque and outdoorsy, but also surly in that grubby pit boss sort of way, poorly tied Windsor knot over an ill-fitting dress shirt stained with whatever he had for lunch. This probably isn’t the sopisticated European gentry image Davidoff wanted, which explains why Zino Davidoff was released only 2 years later, but it makes a statement nonetheless. Wear time is all day, and projection is don’t ask, don’t tell levels of strong. Something like this feels best in fall through maybe early spring, as I think the heavier aspects might stifle in heat, but light applications could work for a guy looking for a rarefied rough-hewn signature. For as much as I love chypres, this would only be an occasional wear for me.

Where one might use this is pretty much open to personal preference, as like most powerhouses in the 80’s, Davidoff (Original) was made for an era where a fragrance was a man’s entourage, cover for a chain-smoking habit, or deodorizer for walking through smog-filled streets. If you’re looking for a kick to the bollocks that takes the form of equal parts tobacco scent, animalic patchouli leather, aromatic oakmoss and woods, with lingering sour citruses, Davidoff is for you if you’re willing to chase unicorns. Sadly, this stuff lived in the shadow of Cool Water (1988), as that scent began a literal revolution in men’s fragrance we still feel the effects from today (and probably will forever), but it hung onto life until 2003 when Coty acquired Beecham (which acquired the license from Lancaster). Coty discontinued everything but Cool Water and the then-new Echo (2003) from the Davidoff portfolio, probably because they didn’t own the formulas and wanted to take Davidoff in more mainstream directions. Zino Davidoff was brought back after what I presume was a huge outcry, but Davidoff (Original) quietly slipped into the realms of the vaunted “masterpiece” after fans talked it up and stirred the fear of missing out that often makes giants of so many retired fragrances. Guépard/Vermeil would remain an alternative for years later even though it too was eventually discontinued when the house shuttered, and isn’t quite the same as some fans will be quick to point out. The biggest differences are the Vermeil is smoothed out with more labdanum, tonka, and civet musk, has less oakmoss, less herbs, plus no noticeable wood tones or castoreum leather, leaning closer to the tobacco. The debut Davidoff fragrance is indeed an alpha male force to be reckoned with, but also feels extra-curricular as a discontinued fore-bearer to so many excellent tobacco fragrances that have emerged since. Thumbs up.

Toy Boy by Moschino (2019)

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Moschino Toy Boy (2019) comes as no surprise from a house that has been pushing the absurdist anti-luxury parody agenda since the late Franco Moschino was sewing patches shaped like fried eggs onto his jeans and calling it high fashion. Anyone who has gone through the brand’s perfume catalog can see this, from adding extra necks to bottles, question marks on the end of fragrances made for men, or housing fragrance in everything from Teddy bears to Windex bottles, it’s clear Moschino goes to great length to buck the pretensions of conspicuous consumption. However, for all of it’s Versace by way of Weird Al Yankovic, Moschino usually end up making quality but mostly conventional fragrances once you get past the packaging and sometimes unusual openings of the fragrances themselves. Toy Boy may be the first true exception to that, as there is nothing really conventional about its combination of anachronistic dandy design laid over top of brand new Givaudan captive aromachemical base notes. Toy Boy is high-tech bleeding-edge perfume materials shaped into a lich that is a mid-80’s musky dandy floral masculines risen from the grave and grafted to some cybernetics, housed in a phylactery shaped like a teddy bear. Toy Boy is going to be a head scratcher for a lot of people, but I think that’s what Moschino is trying to do, taking a “go for broke” strategy on its usual anti-establishment chic business strategy. Or put another way, this stuff is the second coming of Eyvan’s The Baron (1961), trading in puffy lace poet shirts and renaissance hosiery for crop tops and daisy dukes.

The opening of Toy Boy hits with pink pepper, a dry bergamot and violet leaf mix, sweetened with a bit of fruity floral countenance one does not expect in a man’s fragrance. The violet keeps it masculine enough not to raise eyebrows, adding freshness to the pink pepper, with wisps of subtle nutmeg coming in, and the sweet fruity floral feel coming from what is anyone’s guess. Some people have pegged this as ethyl maltol, others are saying galaxolide, but it’s subtle and not a shower gel bomb like something such as Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013) or your typical sweet Bath & Body Works mist. Rose moves into the equation, and things settle into a traditional dandy mode fans of 80’s masculines will recognize, mixing this fresh dry masculine rose with a carnation/clove note supplied by eugenol that will remind older enthusiasts of Caron The Third Man (1985) minus the lavender or Lauder for Men (1985) minus the galbanum. The carnation is what’ll “date” this scent the most, but it’s mixed in with fuzzy cashmeran, some nutty vetiver, and two newbies: ambermax and sylkolide. Ambermax is a combo amber/musk aromachemical that feels a bit powdery and clean, often used in fabric soaps like laundry detergent. Sylkolide on the other hand is like a modernized highly dialed-back version of the skanky ambers that were used in Balenciaga pour Homme (1990), giving the dandy musk finish needed to seal the deal, adding Iso E Super for a late-stage cedar glow. Wear time is 8+ hours and performance is above the standard line, so be careful with sprays on this one. Best use is probably at your discretion because this stuff fits in absolutely nowhere outside the company of tolerant friends, but at least is versatile enough weather-wise to be used year-round.

Since Toy Boy comes on masculine, then slips in some feminine features, then pairs them in a waltz where both clean powdery musks and ambery animalic ones do battle on a dance floor made of warm cashmeran and bright Iso E Super woods, the average mainstream masculine nose will long have given up and scrubbed it off. However, the open-minded sort that enjoys modern takes on antique styles a la Tom Ford’s Beau de Jour (2020) or even dry masculine roses like Cartier Déclaration d’Un Soir (2012) will see value in Toy Boy as a unique and flirtatious head-turning addition to their wardrobe. This is especially true if you’re working in baby steps backwards to more challenging and statement-making fragrances, so if you’re not ready to go all the way with Guerlain Jicky (1889) or Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme (1978), something like Toy Boy can give you a taste of what that’s like before you end up nose-deep in “real” animalics like civet or castoreum notes in your perfume. Of course, in the grand fashion of all fragrances that buck trend or gender conventions so adamantly as this, Toy Boy may not be long for this world, especially with the way Moschino fragrances tend to drop then disappear when nobody really buys them, meaning you shouldn’t kick your feet on sampling this if you’re curious. I like Moschino Toy Boy, irreverent teddy bear bottle and all, but it won’t scratch the itch accurately enough for vintage purists kneeling at their mashed potato altars erected in praise of some dead fragrance house, nor really be understood by the “Fragrance Army” types, so I’m not sure if Moschino went too far in just being themselves, if such a thing is possible. Thumbs up.

Pasha Parfum by Cartier (2020)

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Pasha Parfum by Cartier (2020) is not really the flanker anyone saw coming, nor does it really smell like one might expect, which is part of it’s charm. In these “late stage” shareholder capitalist days of huge corporations demanding constant unsustainable growth and as much profit in the shortest term possible to propel it, stuff like flankers to nearly 30 year old lines doesn’t happen in 2020, but yet here is Pasha Parfum. I guess it isn’t entirely unreasonable considering Cartier also issued Déclaration Parfum (2018), but that fragrance married woody-amber molecules to the original Cartier Déclaration (1998) formula in a way that felt like a sellout to mass appeal worse than when Metallica cut their hair and tried to sound like a biker bar rock band with Load and Reload back in the 90’s. In a nutshell, fans didn’t like it, but everyone else did. Here with Pasha Parfum, house perfumer Mathilde Laurent doesn’t try to make a stronger parfum variant of the classic fougère stylings of Pasha de Cartier (1992), but rather moves the concept onto a modern oriental base similar to that in Cartier L’Envol (2016). What this means for people who liked the oakmoss bottom line in Pasha, is that you’re effectively getting a different semi-related scent that feels less like a flanker and more like an idea born from an entirely different brief, but married to the Pasha DNA only where it makes sense to justify the label. Also of note, if you’re not a fan of modernization or woody-amber bases in perfumes at all, you can ignore this flanker without consequence and continue to wear the still-made Pasha de Cartier EdT (at least for the moment), but if a more-oriental Pasha flanker with a modern sandalwood-ish base that punches upward in execution sounds like a fun idea, read on.

First things first, say goodbye to the lavender of the original Pasha de Cartier. Uncoupling the Pasha structure from the fougère framework means not just ditching the IFRA-hated oakmoss (rectified in modern batches anyway), but also the lavender. The mint goes bye-bye too because it doesn’t fit the context of a warm woody oriental accord, so we get just the mandarin orange and thyme left over from the original’s opening. Coriander and cardamom play a role into the heart of Pasha Parfum, with a similar honeyed benzoin note as L’Envol mixing into the equation. Less and less of the recognizable Pasha vibe is felt as the scent dries down, and this Parfum becomes its own stand-alone thing as a nice creamy synthetic sandalwood note continues into the base, one that reminds me of is put into the Art of Shaving sandalwood shave cream (or soap), mixed with patchouli cleansed of its camphoraceous side as is so common in modern 21st century orientals. The surprising bit of cognac-like booziness into the base is also a good point of separation away from the comparable L’Envol, as is the move away from scratchy ambroxan-enhanced norlimbanol to make the woody aspect of the woody-amber base. Instead, a single ambrocenide molecule replaces the pair, a note that brings the ambery aspects of the woody-amber base into greater focus, and has been used mostly by niche perfumes up until this point, but is slowly becoming the new (superior) kid on the block for woody-amber lovers tired of chemical burn nosebleeds in their perfume. Wear time is about eight hours but projection/sillage is a sneaky one, seemingly growing louder over time as the base hits, so do not overspray. Best use is in cold weather, for formal or romantic occasions, Pasha Parfum can also be unisex too.

In some ways, Pasha Parfum feels like a refinement of the idea started by Laurent in the L’Envol range, and a capitulation to those liking the scent but not its drydown, as Pasha Parfum is indeed smoother. In other ways, this is also the Pasha for people who think oakmoss bases (real, rectified, or synthetic) or spiced lavender top notes smell old and out-of-step in the 21st century the way powdery traditional sandalwood perfumes probably smelled to people in the 1980’s when oakmoss hit it’s peak usage. By keeping what is still relevant about the composition and replacing what isn’t, Laurent has granted the Pasha line a new lease on life the same way Moustache Eau de Parfum by Rochas (2018) has given that venerable nameplate much-needed interest, which allows the original (or some semblance of it) to continue existing alongside it. So even if you end up hating the thing that is Pasha Parfum, embrace its existence knowing that it will inevitably draw curiosity over to the original classic fougère that is Pasha de Cartier, as a younger brother that respects the accomplishments of the older. I actually quite like Pasha Parfum but if you own L’Envol, it is sort of redundant unless you want more of a creamy sandalwood feel in your benzoin-woody-amber stew. If nothing else, this flanker at least makes some sense as a “night out” variant to people who use Pasha Edition Noire (2013) as day wear, although classic Pasha fans okay with woody-ambers may also see it as redundant in that task the way L’Envol owners might. In conclusion, Pasha Parfum feels more like a L’Envol flanker housed in a Pasha bottle, but there’s no use in complaining because it is just a flanker after all, and not a reboot. Pasha Parfum is a nicer modern “sandalwood” perfume than we have any hope to otherwise expect from a designer-tier fragrance house anyhow. Thumbs up.

Rouge Smoking by BDK Parfums (2018)


Rouge Smoking by BDK Parfums (2018) instantly feels like it is pandering to the “BR 540 boyes” with it’s startling resemblance to Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s monumental mainstream crossover hit Baccarat Rouge 540 (2015), and even partially shares its name. It’s easy to understand why, since every band needs a few singles to sell an album and every niche house needs a few mass-appeal proxies to sell their more-unique brand-identifying lines, especially in the hype-obsessed world of men’s fragrances. This is why I think it’s odd BDK would label this a feminine market release, almost like they wanted to hide the fact that they were going for the cheddar with a potential cash cow to keep the house afloat so it can keep cranking out it’s otherwise unique fragrances. Whether you want to say Rouge Smoking is a “I guess we gotta” take on BR540 or just something coincidentally comparable, the fact remains that this is a sweet and semi-synthetic evening scent based on some pretty popular accords in niche or higher-end luxury fragrances.

Rouge Smoking starts with a familiar trick of pink pepper with a bit of uniqueness added in the form of a sweet cherry accord. Tom Ford Lost Cherry (2018) also came out this year so maybe BDK was double-dipping for that clout, who knows? The cherry is fleeting as the heavy hit of expected vanillic saffron and an almost almondine accord (from the cherry perhaps) becomes the heart. Already a familiar cashmeran ambroxan glow wafts up from the base, mixing with the pink pepper and vanilla to recall BR540, with tonka and some synthetic musks. Labdanum is stated to be here, but if it is, I don’t get any. With a name like Rouge Smoking, I expected vetiver or tobacco to make somes appearance, but nope. This is just the jacket, not the smoker, and doesn’t have the class of Guerlain’s Habit Rouge (1965) to that effect. Wear time is at least over eight hours and sillage is outstandaing (unlike the anosmia-inducing BR540), so the BDK gets a leg-up on performance. Best use is romantic evenings in cooler weather, and this reads unisex.

This is not my favorite style, but Parfums de Marly Kalan (2019) would make it likeable with a dry fiery pepper note and more aromatics, so that’s more for me if this type of fragrance was to find a place in my wardrobe (and Kalan might), so Rouge Smoking gets a pass. The execution is decent and dare I say a little better, so niche perfumer Amelie Bourjois delivered on the “same but different” aspect of when niche houses ask for mass-appeal proxies that stand a fighting chance against the origin of the species, but it isn’t enough to get me over the hump of general sweet malaise. My main gripe with BR540 was performance, and the extrait remedied that but I still wasn’t a huge fan even then. This remedies the same problem for less coin (100ml for $200 versus 75ml for $350+), but that doesn’t cut it much slack. If you love this style and want another one, give Rouge Smoking a sniff, otherwise, there’s still no jacket required, but there’s also no smoking allowed in the club. Not BDK’s finest hour, but perhaps liable to be one of their best sellers, of course. Neutral.

Courvoisier L’Edition Impériale by Courvoisier (2006)

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Courvoisier L’Edition Impériale (2006) was issued in two forms which have notable differences. There is a more-common eau de toilette in a silver box with clear liquid and a semi-related rarer eau de parfum in a red box with orange liquid, and the latter has a richer, deeper base that moves it almost into another fragrance genre altogether. This is primarily a review of the eau de toilette as that’s what I have at hand, but honestly after doing some research, they share enough DNA that disliking one may preclude interest in the other, unless it is the difference in dry down that makes or breaks your opinion. If I get to sample the eau de parfum, I’ll come back and revise if notable differences are found. The skinny of the matter is this: Courvoisier wanted to celebrate an anniversary, so they turned to Kraft International Marketing (of all brands) to help them devise a fragrance, and since men were the primary drinkers of their product, a men’s fragrance it was to be. Alexis Dadier composed this, and his name is all over a lot of Oriflame fragrances, so that’s the kind of budget you can expect here despite the fancy packaging. This was originally a “straight to discounters” kind of marketing exercise, but they seem to have mostly dried up on the EdP (hence its mild rarity), while the EdT is still reasonably attainable outside eBay.

Courvoisier in EdT form feels lighter and woodsier than the eau de parfum (which gets far more talk) is claimed to be. Both have an opening of mandarin orange and heaps of coriander spice mixed with cardamom for smoothness and a speck of something powdery and floral. L’Edition Impériale seems like it wants to be a citric floral chypre like Creed Millésime Impérial (1995) but also a woody-amber too, since it moves into tones of cedar and vetiver smoke into the heart where the spices of the top start to gradually overwhelm the citrus and floral start. Eventually the powderiness of the opening is replaced by a scratchy amber in the base, with a bit of dry violet moving to make it more masculine. After about 30 minutes, all I smell in the eau de toilette is the spice, the woody-amber combo, and a bit of the smoke over the violet accord, very proper and inoffensive with moderate tenacity and projection. If you own the eau de parfum, promises of rich leather, benzoins and balsams, plus something a bit boozy to call back to the main drinkable Courvoisier itself are made, but in the Edt, the dry down stops at the woody amber. If I get to sniff the difference, I’ll expand my findings if deemed necessary. The EdT is as office safe as woody-ambers go, while the EdP appears to be more for romantic or formal evening use.

I can see why this has its fans, especially if you own both and use them as alternating day and night versions of the same scent, with the EdT as office wear and EdP as drinks after hours, so I completely get it. The quality is floating right around what was acceptable for a mid-tier designer a la Kenneth Cole or a budget mail-order perfumer like Oriflame, so Alexis Dadier is the right man for the job, delivering something that smells more expensive than it really is, but ultimately shows its real value in the somewhat pedestrian-but-acceptable drydown. If you don’t care for the lightness and dryness of the EdT, the EdP may be more your speed but the whole thing was a limited edition commemorative kind of dealio so it may not be the best daily driver range unless you want to stock up on bottles that slowly rise in price every year since it starting drying up. I like this scent because citrus floral is my jam, and a little oriental spice mixed in keeps it interesting, but the woody-amber curbs my enthusiasm somewhat. Courvoisier L’Edition Impériale is a serviceable-smelling anecdote in modern perfume history and worth picking up if you collect oddities, but is not a true hidden gem. Gotta love those bottles though! Thumbs up.

Gris Charnel by BDK Parfums (2019)

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BDK Parfums Gris Charnel (2019) is an interesting addition to the line, being both familiar and strange at once, combining iris, vetiver, tea, fig, and tonka with oriental elements. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui is nothing if not creative in her portfolio, with unconventional creations for the likes of Jacomo and Penhaligon’s alike, and here that penchant for being “outside the box but also not” comes through. To be certain, this is not a challenging perfume after it settles, but there is also nothing 100% like it and you’ll spend time processing its weirdness before deciding if you enjoy it or not. Oh well, such is niche, and BDK Parfums seeks to a true niche house in the spirit of L’Artisan Parfumeur or Diptyque, so Gris Charnel under those auspices is no surprise. I’m also reminded of some Commodity scents that take a similar direction of smelling like the bottom of a handbag where multiple cosmetics or perfumed products mix after being jostled around for months/years until a new unique “grayed” accord is made from it.

The first thing this does is introduce the fig and black tea, smoothed over by a green cardamom. Fans of Bvlgari Black (1999) and Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme (1999) will liken this opening to an orgy between the two, with cardamom keeping both notes from taking hold over the other, like a form of emulsion. The bourbon vetiver feels familiar to Lalique Encre Noire (2006) and the iris reads more as orris root in this context, very much waxy and rubbery, not powdery or soapy. The iris never fully takes center stage but the accord does feel appropriately “gris” and eventually affords a touch of powderiness late in the wear, especially after a dry sandalwood note joins the fig and vetiver to recall the Ferragamo again but gets blurred by a rare old-school unsweetened tonka that keeps Gris Charnel polite. Wear time is over 9 hours and sillage in “in the pocket” but this can project far in heat thanks to the sharpness. Overall, I’d call this masculine office-ready fare but anyone can wear it, especially if you still listen to Bauhaus or wear old surplus military petticoats as fashion.

The general vibe I get from BDK Parfums Gris Charnel is one of moodiness but lacking enthusiasm, like the edgy kid all dressed in black and grey, too “individual” to identify with goth, metal, or hipster subcultures but also enjoying content from all three “ironically”. That’s the feeling Gris Charnel gives me, a perfume that dabbles and freestyles with typically unsweet and austere notes, but adds a fig here and a tonka there to keep itself one foot in and one foot out of the artisanal coffee shop where it might hang out if it was a person. I like Gris Charnel but it isn’t something I’d reach for personally, since I have scents I can layer to make a similar effect if I so chose, but I can see the value in one perfume checking off the same boxes as several while still feeling like it’s own thing. In short, this is a singular perfume for fans of layering. Fans of BDK should definitely check this out but anyone else should NOT start their exploration of the house here, as Gris Charnel is a black (or should I say gray) sheep in the range. Thumbs up.

Bois Noir by Chanel (1987)

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Some will say Chanel Bois Noir (1987) was truer to a male equivalent for Chanel Bois des Îles (1926) than Chanel Égoïste (1990), or the superior version that should’ve never been changed into what we have today, and others will say it was simply a plainer and less-exciting prototype that is over-hyped due to it’s rarity and expense in the second-hand market. Both arguments are the result of the “haves and have-nots” conflict found in any hobby based on collecting luxury goods, since the means to play such a game is determined entirely by one’s surplus of disposable income or lack thereof, and such an argument would really not even exist if Bois Noir wasn’t such a now-famous flop. Bois Noir required renaming, Chanel’s biggest-to-date ad campaign, and another year or so of retooling in order to salvage the years of R&D money dumped into its original incarnation. Such quickly-discontinued famous flops are invariably collector’s fodder, and when the name Chanel is attached to them, even more so, making the Bois Noir a Maltese Falcon of sorts in the online fragrance community. The truth about Chanel Bois Noir is far less glamorous than the mythos zealous fans and hardcore collectors have built up around the short-lived ultra-rare masculine pillar release, and it is thus: Bois Noir was a radical departure at the time from anything anyone had released under the auspices of a fragrance marketed to men, so it was afforded a dry run as a limited release through boutiques in France then the US. When it failed to sell well and was pulled at the end of 1988, Polge was given the opportunity to revise it based on feedback and that’s how we got Égoïste (1990). It’s a miracle Chanel even allowed the stuff a second chance at all rather than forcing Polge to create something else, or even bother with a soft launch on untested product. I can imagine some folks reading this have never smelled Égoïste, so I’ll give a full breakdown of Bois Noir, but for those coming here armed with seasoned knowledge of Égoïste, I’ll start off with what’s different.

Change out the top of Égoïste completely and make it sweeter, darker, rounder with a bit of smokey birch. Add lavender to the heart to make it feel more masculine than rose and coriander alone could manage, then make the base mildly boozier with bourbon vanilla in place of the standard variety in Égoïste, pairing rosewood with sandalwood in the base, toning down the ambrette seed, and letting the sandalwood do the talking, giving the whole composition more of an oriental feel. For everyone not versed in how Égoïste smells, Bois Noir feels sort of how you might expect a high-quality masculine woody oriental to feel today if you’re dealing with a house that uses a mix of naturals and good synthetics. You get an opening of sweet mandarin and birch smoke that quickly sinks into a lavender/rose heart, sort of dandy in tone but not quite so dandy as say Guerlain Habit Rouge (1965), spiced with a dose of coriander and then smoothed out by a healthy amount of plush creamy sandalwood. Rosewood and ambrette seed join to make the woody oriental aroma deeper and muskier, while bourbon vanilla adds almost a boozy sweet tone that rounds the sandalwood. Bois Noir is pretty unisex to me, but the pendulum does swing a little closer to the male side of the spectrum than Égoïste. Wear time is 8 hours and sillage is close to skin after 1 hour like Égoïste, with the best time to wear Bois Noir being in evenings or fall due to it’s warm romantic character. It isn’t a fair comparison to put Bois Noir up against current Égoïste either, if only because it had real sandalwood and rosewood in place of the compound Polge erected to replace them when natural supplies were poached to near-extinction. If you compare the wrong vintage of Égoïste to Bois Noir, you may mistake the latter as some holy grail it really isn’t. I’ve smelled mid-90’s batches of Égoïste before such a compound had been perfected, and the other more-standard sandalwood replacements being used in Égoïste get the effusive qualities of sandalwood down pat, but are much drier to the nose. The creaminess Égoïste is known for didn’t return until much more recently, but even then, nothing will ever smell deeply of real sandalwood nor closest to Bois Noir as the earliest versions of Égoïste also containing it.

This is one area where I’ll concede to sometimes hyperbolic and solipsistic vintage purists who try to gatekeep what is or isn’t “proper Égoïste”, since to understand how close Bois Noir and Égoïste really were early on, you’ll have to smell deep vintage examples of the latter or really over-spray the modern and let it dry to build up layers of Polge’s admirable but thinner synth sandalwood compound. After having done either of these, you’ll reach the conclusion I have that Bois Noir was aptly named, and is just a darker, matte-finish and marginally “manlier” version of what became Égoïste; a fragrance that feels less lively in the top and heart and less unique until shedding such trappings in its revision. Removing the smoke and moving the rosewood to the top, using a brighter tangerine in place of mandarin, and focusing on the rose and coriander without lavender or faint booziness adding obligatory masculinity makes Égoïste blur gender lines, but also makes it more ostentatious as its name suggests it should be, while still living up to the Chanel promise of discrete elegance with the soft way it dries down (something Antaeus arguably failed to do). Sadly, the 1990’s wasn’t really the best time for a scent like Bois Noir or Égoïste, and after “fresh” fougères became the new vogue for men, Polge was forced to semi-replace his pet project after all, issuing a flanker called Platinum Égoïste (1993) which is a more-conventional scent that ended being more like the pillar in the long run. Once the internet connected enthusiasts, and discussion was sparked about Bois Noir being a sort of “alpha build” for the cult-status Égoïste, it’s legend grew (as did it’s price), and here we are. I’m glad I got to smell this, because it brings some closure and debunks some of the claims surrounding it. Bois Noir was a woody oriental for men that didn’t fully commit to it’s own concept, hiding behind the “darkness” of legacy masculine perfume notes in the process. Égoïste is the same scent freed from those shackles, and while perhaps more challenging to some, is also a tad more memorable for it. Thumbs up.

Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain (1904)

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Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904) was created by Jacques Guerlain and released in response to the unexpected male interest in Guerlain Jicky (1889) created by his uncle Aimé Guerlain, the preceding steward of the house. Jicky is often considered the Western world’s first truly abstract perfume, as it was built along similar “fougère” lines with lavender tonka and oakmoss, much like Fougère Royale from Houbigant (1882) a few years prior, but itself not considered part of that nascent genre because of how different and undefined as a smell it truly was. However, there must have been something attractive in the heady combination of aromatics, florals, animalic tones, and citruses in Jicky that drew men to it like a magnet, something virile yet sophisticated, leading them to buy it almost as much if not intially more than women who were thought to be the original target market for Aimé’s creation. Still, there were others who liked the way it smelled, but would not bring themselves to wear a perfume potentially shared with “the fairer sex” because that’s just how things were then. So, with an ever-increasing interest in grooming and fragrant products thanks to the popularity of the dandy aesthetic into the 20th century, it became advantageous for Guerlain to modify something they already knew sold well to men so that it now would be labelled as explicitly for them, opening the door to those guys that needed security in their masculinity with their choice to wear fragrance. Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904) is therefore only really a stone’s throw away from Jicky in style, and if you were to decant them each into unlabelled bottles you might be hard-pressed to tell them apart from a glance, but there are differences.

The biggest difference for me is that Mouchoir de Monsieur makes an effort to be more of a proper fougère than Jicky. Of course, this was before the term had quite been established as one defining an entire genre, as said genre was still only emerging as such into the 1900’s, so what I really mean is more “like Fougère Royale” and less “like Jicky”. This is not altogether surprising since Jacques Guerlain is famous for innovating on the backs of others’ inventions, with his most famous perfumes being “improvements” on designs laid forth by peers like François Coty. If you view Mouchoir de Monsieur in this light, you find it less of an “improvement” on Paul Parquet’s work in Fougère Royale and more of a grafting process where characteristics of Fougère Royale’s design were smashed into Jicky to replace some of it’s more scandalous elements, then finessed into form. The opening of Mouchoir de Monsieur hits you with a ton of sweet lavender, bright geranium, lemon verbena, and bergamot. From the get go, this is already more in the direction of what would eventually be a barbershop trope, and away from Jicky’s sweeter initial tones, but Mouchoir de Monsieur does inherit Jicky’s lack of a proper structured dry down, collapsing into a huge base swimming with notes just like Jicky. Indolic florals have been toned down some, as have spices, and the structure leans more into smooth musks and aromatics as per the male preference of the day. This means civet and tonka do most of the talking, with a creamy powdery sandalwood note replacing the orris butter and benzoin in Jicky. Vanilla is still here, as is patchouli and amber, but Mouchoir de Monsieur is more polite even if only by a few degrees.

Wear time is sufficient for a day although I don’t know if I would want to spend a day in something this rich. Mouchoir de Monsieur has semi-oriental DNA that would later see repetition in other fougère scents from the first half of the 20th century like Caron Pour un Homme (1934) and D’Orsay Arôme 3 (1943), and that DNA makes it feel very redolent and luxuriant like more modern semi-oriental fougères from brands like Creed and Roja Dove. Mouchoir de Monsieur is properly gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so gorgeous that it doesn’t feel relaxed enough to just enjoy at work or a chill day, so I’d recommend formal use. Luckily, Mouchoir de Monsieur is also a fragrance that has survived the generations of existence it has relatively unmolested by reformulation, even if subtle reductions in civet musk over the years have rendered much of the shock value it had in days gone by as inert. Smelling vintage Mouchoir de Monsieur side-by-side with modern will at first feel like removing a NSFW filter from your web browser then turning it back on, because that civet just unzips its fly and lets everything hang out in the vintage, but then barely registers a blip in modern iterations. However, once things dry down and settle, the lavender and geranium get quiet enough in the modern version that they stand on even footing with the deep musky vanillic tonka and oakmoss base like they do from the onset in vintage, making old and new smell about 90% alike. Simply put, if you want to smell like an old Burlesque but refuse to share your perfume with the dancers, you wear Mouchoir de Monsieur, the advertised scent of a gentleman’s handkerchief. Penguin suit and top hat sold separately. Thumbs up.

Match Point by Lacoste (2020)

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Lacoste does not have the greatest track record for innovation in the field of mass-market perfume, at least not since Jean Kerleo by way of Jean Patou stopped being the caretaker of their perfumes, but there have been some pleasant hits between the mediocrity or outright misses that comprise a lot of the range. Match Point (2020) is one such hit, even if it isn’t a revelation by any stretch of the imagination. Perfumer Sophie Labbé is rather prolific in the number of entries she has churned out for designers, with the occaisional bit of artistic flare here and there like with the niche Floraïku range or the IFF Speed Smelling Postmodern (2017) set that came out a few years back, and rides the middle course between that flare and the typical dialed-in mass appeal vibe. Match Point itself goes for a tennis theme but how much of that translates from the smell is beyond me, since I have not spent much if any significant time in a tennis court. Match Point seems to be trying to do the same thing Davidoff Run Wild (2020) is doing, by being just left-of-center in the mass-appeal spectrum, especially by not being a post-aquatic “blue” fragrance in the strictest terms like Prada Luna Rossa Carbon (2017), but is it enough? I can’t say but Match Point is leagues beyond Run Wild in originality and quality even if in the greater scheme it isn’t super original, and also miles away from most entities in the L.12.12 line made for men, since that “give me sporty or give me death” line has all but put a clown nose on the house of Lacoste.

the opening of Match Point is sweet, but it isn’t your typical “mall fragrance” sweet, nor the usual blast of vacuum-distilled “smooth” bergamot that powers stuff like Creed Aventus (2010) or Dior Sauvage (2015). Instead, Sophie returns to a 2000’s favorite with grapefruit, which itself is often sweeter than bergamot when presented in fragrances, but not sweet in the same intensity as what guys wearing 2010’s “bangers” might be used to. I get some pink pepper for body but mainly geranium after this, which runs through shades of being minty, bright, rosey, metallic, and fresh all at once. The geranium here is very much like what you’d find in JB by Jack Black (2010) or Creed Vetiver Geranium (2014), but not on the same level of refinement as the latter. Bitterness and powderiness move in to replace some of the sweetness before long, being blamed on the gentian flower (which I had no experience with until this fragrance), with clary sage adding some barbershop comfort with it’s hay-like aromatic demeanor. It almost feels like Match Point is trying to bridge an age divide between gen-x and millennials the same way Rochas L’Homme does (2020), but more on that later. The base has wisps of oakmoss woodiness, but without the plush feel of true oakmoss, adding in heaps of fuzzy cashmeran like Dior Homme (2020) or older Calvin Klein fragrances like Contradiction for Men (1999), with green touches of vetiver. There is also a form of woody amber here but I wouldn’t say this is scratchy. Performance is average to slightly above in sillage but longevity isn’t anything to brag about.

You know the drill past this point: Lacoste Match Point is a semi-sporty fresh fragrance for day time use in spring through early fall, best used in casual situations or maybe to the gym. The formal appeal of the geranium focus and the clean powderiness may give this some legs in the office but there are far better options in my opinion, like Prada L’Homme (2016). The kind of person showing interest in Lacoste Match Point may be the guy who is tired of the L.12.12 range and wanting something a bit more mature, or the older guy who has worn Lacoste (1984), Booster (1996), or Lacoste pour Homme (2002) and wants an update to his Lacoste-branded signature. Really, the mixture of sweet grapefruit, gentlemanly geranium, powdery gential, and a synthetic but harmless woody base notes form this “something for everyone” that reaches out to about 40 years worth of “cologne guys” out there who aren’t invested enough in fragrances as a hobby to care about oakmoss this, IFRA that, or what makes a scent niche. The “three colognes in the medicine chest” kind of guy who could be your dad, your older brother, or you best friend has Match Point specifically gunning for his money, and he won’t smell like the masses drenched in Axe or “something blue” which is a plus. For the guys deeply entrenched in batch codes or looking for a convincing Mysore sandalwood note in their perfume, this will be a pass like most Lacoste fragrances. Match Point feels like a dumb reach scent that doesn’t feel quite so dumb, comparatively speaking. Thumbs up.

Derby by Guerlain (1985)

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Guerlain contributed to the powerhouse era of over-the-top 80’s ultra-masculine perfumes with Derby (1985), a fragrance that has the type of veneration among guys over 50 that Creed Aventus (2010) has with guys over 30. Looking at what else was circling in the waters of the era, we see Jean-Paul Guerlain choosing the aromatic leather chypre direction with Derby, following in the footsteps of fragrances like Chanel Antaeus (1981), One Man Show by Jacques Bogart (1980) before it, Chaps by Ralph Lauren (1979), all the way back to late 70’s progenitors like Caron Yatagan (1976). The primary note in most of these is castoreum and oakmoss, creating a sharp woody/mossy leathery base that is on the “find out” end of the phrase “fuck around and find out”, with almost zero sweetness or humor. These types of powerhouse chypres ran counter to the sweeter/soapier, often more-obviously musky powerhouse fougères like Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981) and were the business side of the powerhouse spectrum opposite the pleasure side that these fougères represented. Giving a name like Derby to such a fragrance then seems almost appropriate, with such a hat adorning the head of a rugged man of the land more than say a CEO showing boardroom poise. Derby to me feels quite like the Indiana Jones of the 80’s powerhouse leathers, preferring a punch to the face over bedroom hijinks or posh images of equestrian sports. Like Indy, Derby is polite only until you step out of line, and dare I say lacking some manners that even Antaeus manages to show. Like Aventus to millennials, this was a statement fragrance for late boomers and early gen-x.

Derby feels decidedly “un-Guerlain” because of this design, which may be part of why it was deleted then moved to a rare and difficult-to-find boutique collection. The scent opens with a slug of searing dry bergamot and bitter artemisia/wormwood. Comparisons to both Antaeus and Quorum by Antonio Puig (1982) can be drawn here, but Derby rides closer to the former if anything. Note pyramids show peppermint and lemon also here, and I can believe the lemon, but not the peppermint. There is a bit of what I detect as mandarin orange here too, and some aldehydes as well, recalling to my mind a sharper and more-intense version of what powers the opening of Avon Black Suede (1980), devoid of all that scent’s amber elements. The heart structure also lives slightly in the shadow of precursors like Antaeus and One Man Show, with carnation and and coniferous resinous notes, but where Derby differs is in the spice. A very hot mace and pimento note enter here, recalling future leathers like Hermès Bel Ami (1986) that would take this direction, ending in the expected castoreum, tannery isobutyl quinoline, and oakmoss, but greened out just a tad more than its peers with vetiver, patchouli, then smoothed some with tones of sandalwood. The full effect of wearing Derby is one that remains piercingly sharp in its interpretation of the leather chypre, spicy hot and formidable, but with a dusty powdery gentleman side similar to Chaps Ralph Lauren. Performance needs not be mentioned and longevity is until you scrape it off with an industrial-grade putty knife. Suggested uses are cold weather or whenever you’re feeling just a little nuts.

There is of course the elephant in the room: the price. Original bottles made until LVMH took creative control away from the Guerlain family cost a literal fortune, be it the launch “Eagle” bottles, or the later column sprays and “Listerine” bottle gold-cap sprays. You will be paying above Creed, or even above Roja Dove retail prices minimum for any of these if full and unused, making vintage Derby a play-thing for the richest vintage enthusiasts or old guys lucky enough to have hoarded it when hitting discounters decades ago. In 2012 Guerlain re-issued Derby as part of the “Les Parisiens” set but had to do so in accordance with IFRA regulations, toning down the animalic side to appease modern tastes (likely against Jean-Paul’s wishes), as with subsequent versions of anything else using civet or castoreum in the 1980’s (like Antaeus and One Man Show), plus the oakmoss neutered and plugged with fillers makes the top and heart shine more. This version gets the message across, and can be had directly from Guerlain for less (but still a lot because it’s exclusive), although the Indiana Jones of the reissued Derby feels tired and old like his father in The Last Crusade. Derby is the unapologetic black sheep of the Guerlain masculine range that maybe deserves its worship, even if it’s less original than I expected from the house, since this kind of lowbrow macho swagger doesn’t fit the aristocratic Guerlain narrative at all and makes Derby stand way out there from everything else they’ve ever made. If you can sample vintage, do it, but any way you wear a Derby, it’s likely to knock you on your butt, and everyone else around you too. Thumbs up.