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.