Fragrance Flashback Pt 2

LOOKING GLASS IN REVERSE: I like to think of ending where I started. Here we take a trip back into the world of fragrances dating between 1978-1994. The wayback machine is in the upright and full tilt position, and has not smelled this good in a long while (unless you caught part one). Sure, some of these may be long past their prime, and others are timeless, still there may be an oddball which we have yet to catch up with. Still, it’s worth having a grateful sniff at these fragrances of yore, all which are still being produced, or somewhat readily available. In those days it was all about the oakmoss (every one here include it) and aldehydes, ahhhh! To some extent they may ‘seem’ like blasts from the past, but I encourage you to consider these with an open mind, taking lil’ risk in your personal curiosity, and ask yourself…how can a certain scent actually be ‘dated’ per se? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately. For some who were around in the era these might have a slight bit of a nostalgic appeal. To someone like me, who lived through it while these all were released (albeit quite the young man at the time) I have to be honest – this is my first time getting my nose on four of these five, believe it or not. Some of these were very much standards in their heyday. But I ask, what actually makes a fragrance timeless to the individual wearer? There’s always a reason behind the market longevity of any perfume, so let’s atomize to find out!…..

Lagerfeld (1978)
Nose: Ron Winnegrad

We start with the only ‘classic’ EDT here that I actually wore somewhat religiously in the post-disco era. I remember it was smooth and aromatic, but it’s literally been 35 years since this touched all this skin, honey. So, is it memorable? The bottle with it’s lil’ o-ring atop sure is, but the juice seems more pinkish rather than topaz-coloured. I’m excited to give this a spritz. This has a bold mystique about it, and honestly dials back into my scent memory instantly. Of all of the fragrances from the late 70’s through the mid 80’s that I’ve gone back to, this, by far, seems to have captured the most authentic spirit of the original. In fact, it’s kind of miraculous that they could manage such an accord for the outlaw in oakmoss, this is shaped and preened to a ‘t’. So multi-tiered in terms of this balance between soapiness, the aldehydic magic and the soft distant florals. This has such a distinguished glow to it. It’s clean, slightly green and after the citrus at the very top burns off it’s got this hollowe out mentholated sort of thing that happens in the heart.That is altogether brought on by the nuanced touch of tarragon here – it’s one of those herbs that is misunderstood and used far too infrequently these days, but here its exquisitely elusive. With just the barest patchouli this quiets into the drydown like a feathered powdery musk of woods and dry tobacco. Something about a haircut and a shoeshine comes to mind. The only difference I can detect from the early 80’s formulation of memory and this is the longevity, this will last less on your skin, but you can still anticipate a solid few hours, and no worries as the drydown is so lush you will be thrilled by its chill sensation. (86%)

Notes: Aldehydes, Tarragon, Clary Sage, Bergamot, Lemon, Green Notes, Tobacco, Sandalwood, Orris Root, Patchouli, Rose, Cedar, Jasmine, Amber, Vanilla, Musk, Tonka Bean, Oakmoss

Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui (1980)
Nose: unknown

From the outside this just has to be something special. I mean, that squat rounded-end dark blue packaging with its wink to the 20’s or the 40’s really is emblematic of the word classic. But, what does this smell like? At first there’s this ‘sporty’ vibe, it’s not necessarily something I resonate with, but I do enjoy the fresh spirit. Give it a few moments and its the herbs that give off all that tingly magic. Here, too, there’s a soapiness (likely cast off from the smooth sandalwood). This is probably something I may have tested at the time and thought, this will work better on other skins than mine. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the sillage off another, but this would have been a bit too middling and open-air for me back then. Now I can understand the appeal, but to my nose’s best estimate, this fragrance would be best left to history, it just seems a bit too generic, and perhaps slightly marine-like. The leather and vetiver notes do not come forward whatsoever, and that is a big disappointment. I can recall, however, loving some of the colorful OdlR dress shirts I wore in high school. This is one of those cases where a designer should have stuck to what they do best, fashion. Not bad, but not really for me. (72%)

Notes: Aldehydes, Lavender, Juniper Berries, Basil, Galbanum, Sage, Caraway, Anise, Bergamot, Carnation, Patchouli, Cinnamon, Geranium, Cedar, Vetiver, Cyclamen, Oakmoss, Leather, Labdanum, Sandalwood, Musk

Versace L’Homme (1986)
Nose: unknown

Another high-end designer (lost much too soon) who everyone was head over heels for back in the day. His legacy has really been completely revitalized by his sister after his tragic murder. I remember nabbing one of his much sought after men’s silk shirts that used to sell for upwards of $750 for less than $40 long before the downtown Boston location of Filene’s Basement went out of business. Versace was always the height of luxury, and despite the fact that I missed this first-time around I found a classic somewhat vintage bottle, in all its gracious Miami-deco stylings, so let’s try it out. First thing to say, the built-in atomizer, though as plastic as all get out, means business! And while this has that same uplifting spirit as that of the Oscar de la Renta above, this fragrance, and it’s initial citrus blast, is so well rounded. It reminds me of the beginning of Summertime, as if it hit the spot at the perfect moment in the season. That carnation, once so r/evolutionary in men’s fragrances, is omnipresent. There’s such a nod to perfumerie’s timeless ingredients here, and this is a happy-go-lucky eau de toilette. This reminds me of those restaurants or clubs you might happen upon where there was a bathroom attendant, a cologne waiter at the quick who produced splashes and washcloths to assist in your instant grooming needs on the fly. That was always a very rare (and slightly jarring) occurrence for me, and this tradition has all but died out. Though I did experience it last when I was in London (circa ’97) for a show at the Savoy. I must say this is a keeper, and honestly could/should still be worn toda, as this seems far beyond a simple curiosity. This is thanks to the blend of spices and balsamic notes that really churn into a lovely brew. The oakmoss, here is presented with a vanilla that slowly vanishes into a luxurious musk in the final hours of wearing. An enduring fragrance. (89%)

Notes: Lemon, Basil, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Green Notes, Carnation, Cinnamon, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Rose, Cedar, Jasmine, Leather, Oakmoss, Musk, Vanilla, Labdanum, Amber, Tonka Bean

Lapidus Pour Homme / Ted Lapidus (1987)
Nose: Martin Gras

Oh my goodness, I have heard about this fragrance for years, so there must be a reason for it, yah? I’m determined to get inside this strangely designed hexagogonal bottle in shades of grey to find out what lurks within. Is it a grey area? Will it fade to grey, or will it be music to my ears (er, nose)? I do dig the built-in atomizer with it’s silver accents. Like a tropical fruit salad with frosted grapes. Such an unusual fragrance, definitely unique now, and obviously way before its time, even in the day-glo end of the 80’s this must have stuck out like a sore thumb. I’m shocked this still exists, but so glad it does. It’s a sprightly, fresh fragrance with lots of frills. When you take honey and pineapple with a dose of lavender and artemisia you are treading, tip-toeing rather, on complex eggshells. This is powdery, floral, definitely unisex. For me I think what dances most sweetly, beyond the fruited blend, is the note of jasmine, it just centers the whole fragrance. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades was released just the year prior, and it echoes with this so well. And later the purposeful blend of patchouli and tobacco slowly emerge from the sweet fog and themselves achromatize into a most dreamy, memorable musk. Interrrrrresttting! (87%)

Notes: Pineapple, Lavender, Artemisia, Juniper Berries, Basil, Lemon, Bergamot, Honey, Incense, Pine Tree, Rose, Brazilian Rosewood, Jasmine, Caraway, Orris Root, Lily-of-the-Valley and Petitgrain, Tobacco, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Amber, Sandalwood, Musk, Tonka Bean, Cedar

Havana / Aramis (1994)
Noses: Nathalie Feisthauer and Xavier Renard

Within this spotlight this is the only fragrance that crossed the threshold into the 90’s, a decade still up for dissection by the cultural cognoscenti. The reason I was curious about this one is because of its predecessors in the long line of the now dubbed ‘Gentleman’s Collection’ from Aramis (via Estée Lauder). With indelible memories of Devin, Aramis 900, Tuscany per Uomo, JHL (I wish I could get my nose on the latter two again, alas) here’s to approaching this one with care, as I’ve ‘heard’ good things. This comes in one of those newer chunky bottles with silver plated plastic cap when they rebranded about a decade ago. My guess is most of this line is slowly being discontinued as a few of these have become scarce. I still remember using the JHL Body Cooler (named after Ms. Lauder’s husband), it was a splash that dried into this matte powdery finish and smelled incredible. Enough dawdling, let’s get take a trip to Havana! It’s slightly charred amid a really fresh and lithe sporty type scent. The tobacco is ripe, almost with a vague cannabis accord – that is through the aiding/abetting of the artemisia and other herbals. With evergreen tints and a dark greenness this fragrance has its own mystery, and its shape is, well, it’s edgeless. Classic notes like carnation and oakmoss give this a garden-like earthy appeal with a woody/soapy musk in its wake. I cannot vouch for the difference between this now and then, but I can see the value of such a stylish work, even today. I only wish the tobacco note was amped up slightly more, and perhaps a bit of pepper to boost the whole thing a touch, but clearly this is a strong effort and I will keep this on the second tier of my shelf for future re-visitation rights. (82%)

Notes: Mandarin Orange, Artemisia, Basil, Caraway, Tobacco, Cinnamon, Fir, Carnation, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Sandalwood


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