Ever since I started the Pierre Benard Challenge back in May it has renewed my awareness of the scents around me. That might sound odd from someone who enjoys writing about perfume, but I tend to focus on the perfume under my nose. That leads to me missing the ambient world of odors around me. One thing this effort has done is to make me look up from the bottle and breathe in more consistently. Earlier this week after being outside in the early fall weather with the dogs I entered the house to the comforting smell of cinnamon. It completed a connection which I had not explicitly understood as this being the scent of autumn.
The reason the house smelled of cinnamon is a lot of our fall pastry cooking requires lots of it. If I were writing this twenty years ago there would just be cinnamon. Except I discovered there are many varieties of cinnamon all of which have their own flavor and scent profiles. We have four different kinds in our kitchen: Vietnamese, Ceylon, Indonesian, and Chinese. Just like the perfume ingredient oud, terroir seems to make a difference.
When it comes to apple pie the Chinese cinnamon is our choice. We tend to use the tarter apples in our pies, so this sweeter type of spice is used to take some of that edge away. For cinnamon rolls we want the strongest flavor we can get and that is the Vietnamese type. For my beloved snickerdoodle cookies it is the Indonesian cinnamon I mix with sugar to coat the dough in. For everyday use on my oatmeal or cocoa the mellow Ceylon cinnamon gives me just the bit of flavor I desire.
When I walked into the house this week there were two apple pies cooling. A cinnamon roll was waiting for me to have with my morning coffee. I thought this is the essence of autumn the humid scent of cinnamon from baking.
The perfume which gives me the same thrill is Estee Lauder Cinnabar. It has always been a fall favorite because of its cinnamon and clove heart.
I know for many it is the pumpkin spice mélange which provides the demarcation of summer into fall. In out house it is cinnamon which does it.
It was only recently that I was reminded that the first perfume I owned was a Christmas gift. I’ve spoken, in previous Christmas Day columns, of my days as a child and the place perfume filled with my parents in the Holiday season. I thought this year it was time to talk about my first feelings towards perfume along with why I wanted a specific one under the tree for Christmas 1973.
In the fall of 1973 I had made the rite of passage of starting high school. I was still trying to figure it all out in those early days. Part of that was trying to come up with a personal style. One component were big flaring bell bottom jeans. Mine were so large you couldn’t see my feet when I was walking. There was a store in our local mall called The Jean Connection. I had them order me the biggest flared bell bottoms they could find. I still remember them as the most comfortable jeans I ever owned. My shirts were these popular pull over shirts from a brand called “Hang Ten”. I liked them because they had a lot of brightly colored stripes. Taken all together they were pieces of my aesthetic, all my own, while still being like what others were wearing.
I wanted to add perfume to it all. My father wore all the standard men’s fragrances of the day. He had Dana Canoe, English Leather, and Hai Karate. I wore them a bit, but I had decided if I was going to wear something it was going to be my own thing. That’s when I saw the advertisement below in a magazine.
I’ll happily admit the lines about arousing female “animal desires” was not lost on my adolescent mind. Although it was the line on the back of the box which really sold me on it; “A no-nonsense scent all your own”. I wasn’t going to smell like my father. I was going to have my own, wait for it, signature scent.
When it came time to be making a list for Christmas, Jovan Musk Oil for Men was at the top. I got a little bit of pushback. Dad told me I could use any of his colognes I wanted. Mom thought I was growing up too fast, “why do you want to start wearing perfume, honey?”. I was 14 damnit! Not that I said it out loud. I used my subtle persuasive ways to push that it was the main thing I wanted. I went into Christmas morning confident I had succeeded.
When we woke up and gathered by the tree each person had their presents in a pile. Mine was a pyramid of larger rectangular boxes on the bottom, clothes. A few flat squares on top of that, records. A couple of smaller rectangles, books. On top like my own personal glittery Christmas star was a tiny rectangular box wrapped in red paper with a gold ribbon around it. When it was my turn to open my present, I snatched it off the top. As soon as I unwrapped the ribbon one peek underneath the paper showed the orange color of the box within. Yes!
From that day until today I have always owned a bottle of Jovan Musk Oil for Men. Did it get me girls? I don’t think so. I did have many of the girls I dated say I smelled nice. I think it was doing what perfume should do; add to one’s personal style. It is perhaps as close as I’ve come to having a signature scent as we define it. Ten years on I would be down the rabbit hole and the bottles on my dresser would begin to multiply. For the years prior it was pretty much a bottle of Musk Oil for Men which was my scent. For my parents it was another sign I was closer to leaving home. It was probably a bittersweet moment amidst my excitement at having the gift I wanted. It was another step towards forming the adult I wanted to eventually become. All of that happened on Christmas morning 1973.
I always like to look back at the first half of the perfume year every July. I enjoy trying to pick out the emerging trends and to give the best releases of the first half of the year some more love.
Before I get to that though the biggest news of the first six months of 2019 was the departure of Christopher Chong as Creative Director at Amouage. At this time it isn’t clear what that means for the brand or where Mr. Chong will eventually be making perfume again. If both resolve over the next six months those will probably be headlines for my end of year wrap-up.
I feel like I’ve found more new brands to be impressed with over these past six months. Maison Violet is a heritage brand doing it well. Chatillon Lux and the perfumer behind it, Shawn Maher, have an incredible collection already of which Lamplight Penance is one of the best of the year. Ryan Richmond Rich Mess was far from that description; it was a crazy thrill ride of a perfume.
A couple of brands followed up strong 2018’s with even better releases this year. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is a lightweight leather that I enjoy the more I wear it. Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour is a mimosa fragrance I have also spent a few summer days wearing.
There were two very limited editions, which sold out in hours, which are among the best of the year. Bogue 0,7738 is Antonio Gardoni at his best. Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline is an homage to the perfumer’s Texas heritage via a red cedar oil from his home.
Two brands which I haven’t heard from for awhile made impressive returns. Rubini Tambour Sacre re-assembled the creative team from the debut Fundamental. This time they found the sacred rhythm of excellent perfume. Dannielle Sergent took her Cognoscenti brand in a layered floral direction with Warrior Queen.
Finally there are three perfumes which are at the top of my list for the first half of 2019.
Hiram Green Lustre is a breathtaking rose soliflore on an all-natural palette.
Nishane Ani takes what you think you know about vanilla in perfume and evolves it.
Talc de IUNX is as good as it gets from Olivia Giacobetti. I’m always pleased to get something new from her this time I can’t forget about it.
The fall releases are starting to show up in my mailbox. Based on early returns I am expecting the last half to be as good or better than the first half of 2019.
I’m not a big believer on looking backward. I’d rather keep moving forward. One thing that I learned when I was cycling regularly was how gratifying it was to look back over my shoulder as I crested a big hill. You could take pleasure in the work it took to get there by seeing the sloping path behind you. Today I’m choosing to look back at the five years of doing this blog with pleasure.
When I hit publish on February 1, 2014 I wasn’t sure I could write one new piece on perfume every day. I had a 90-day plan on that day; to find out that extended to an 1,826-day plan is that path I am writing about. I haven’t missed one day in five years. The biggest reason is the readers. To extend the cycling analogy it was the people who read Colognoisseur who cheered me on as I kept pedaling up the hill. Today I’d like to thank the readers by sharing a few stories.
One of the stories which has generated some of the loveliest e-mails has been my “How to Give Perfume as a Gift”. I’ve had a couple who chose a perfume for their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve had a bride and groom use it for their wedding day scents. My very favorite was the e-mail I received from a father and his daughter as they used it to find a perfume for her Sweet Sixteen. The daughter has worn the perfume they chose, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, ever since. It is one of the most popular posts on Colognoisseur which provides me with real evidence that the words I write can make perfume a part of people’s lives.
The other e-mail I receive which pleases me is when I review a new independent perfumer followed by a reader who seeks the perfume out. Part of what I wanted to do was to make sure Colognoisseur would give positive exposure to these artists who work outside the mass-market. Most of the time the readers find something to enjoy, as I did. Sometimes I do get e-mail wondering if there is something wrong with my nose. I am thankful for those communications, too. They are reminders that what I write is one man’s opinion, not meant to represent anything more than that.
One part of doing the blog for this long is the responses I get to my The Sunday Magazine pieces. That is where I allow my non-perfume passions to peek out from behind the bottles. The readers seem to enjoy debating those things. None more so than my enjoyment of Twin Peaks: The Return. I think there are still some who think I have lost it over that.
I’ve received amazing random acts of kindness from readers who send me things which I mention in my writing. I’ve gotten perfume. I’ve also received recipes for gingerbread as well as a new way to make plum rum. All because I’ve written about a perfume. All because Colognoisseur has become a part of people’s reading.
Thank you is such a small phrase to carry as much weight as it does. To every person who has read Colognoisseur over the past five years; Thank you.
Last year’s Christmas post was triggered by smelling some vintage Guerlain Mitsouko. Writing that was like a fever dream which spilled out of me. In the days after I posted that my memory was jogged again about a Christmas Eve shopping trip with my father to buy my mother a present. It seemed like the appropriate follow-up to last year’s story.
The reason there is a cliché about men shopping on Christmas Eve is because there is some truth there. My father and I would get up every Christmas Eve to go shopping for gifts for my mother. I never thought there was any other way to do it. I don’t know this, but I suspect my mother enjoyed a bit of the lull before the storm by having us out of the house.
Downtown Miami Jordan-Marsh 1960-ish
I loved the shopping expedition because we went to the most elegant department store in Miami; Jordan-Marsh. This was when stores like this were wonderlands filled with the latest technology. I was fascinated with the glass room which contained the record players and sound systems. You would step into the soundproofed booth to be surrounded by stereo sound…stereo! I remember walking from one speaker to the other realizing I was hearing different things from each one. It was a modern marvel.
The housewares department was even more fantastic with the latest and the greatest. There was someone demonstrating non-stick frying pans. Look! Melted cheese slides right out! There was an ice cream parlor where we would have lunch. There were people buying wine in the Wine Cellar. It wasn’t sensory overload it was just enough to satiate my need for novel experiences.
We would look all around the store considering this new-fangled thing or that. I remember advocating for the non-stick frying pan one year. We ended up at the same place every year standing at the Women’s Fragrance counter.
My mother wore only two perfumes Guerlain Mitsouko and Guerlain Shalimar. When we got to the counter a nicely dressed woman would patiently greet the latest clueless males venturing into unknown territory. We would mention that those were the perfumes my mother wore. We would be offered paper strips with the latest perfume. “Straight from Paris” she would say. My father and the saleswoman would begin to talk. I tuned them out as I smelled the strip. I tried to imagine my mother smelling like what was on the paper. I couldn’t. To me my mother simply smelled like Mitsouko or Shalimar. There was no alternative.
When my father asked me about the new perfume, I would reply I didn’t think Mom would like it. I think my Dad thought so too but he let me be the bearer of disappointing news to the saleswoman. He would ask for one of the two Guerlains and we had finished. We would go upstairs to gift wrapping and get an extravagantly intricate design.
On Christmas morning when I would hand my mother the gift from Dad and me; she undoubtedly knew what was inside. She would carefully undo the wrapping paper. Pulling out the box she would smile at Dad and I with the words, “My favorite!”
It wasn’t the perfect gift; whatever that might have been. It was a gift which told my mother we loved the way she smelled.
This is the ninth year I have done a variation on the classic “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore for my Christmas Eve post. For 2017 I was a bit inspired by another magical character Mary Poppins. I imagined Jolly Scent Nick as a Christmas version of the practically perfect nanny.
Here we are, 17 Poodlesville Lane. Home of Colognoisseur, Mrs. C, and the poodles Jackson and Henry. Looks like the winds from the east. What’s about to happen has happened before.
I was letting the poodles in from their final patrol of the moonlit Christmas Eve yard. I looked at the stockings, hung so neatly. Mrs. C had just fallen asleep with two poodle balls of cuteness snuggled next to her. While I was out, I felt the wind shift; wondering if that was for good or ill. Then answer came when an incredible racket was heard in the sky. I knew it must be magic because Mrs. C and the poodles continued to dream oblivious to the noise I heard.
I ran to the picture window to see a silhouette flit across the full moon. It looked like a sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer. I heard the driver shout out their names; Now Coco! Now Jacques! Now Jean and Francois! On Robert! On Yves! On Annick and Estee! Head for the roof!
Eau de Family
As I heard the hooves above me a noise from the fireplace drew my attention. With a whoosh Scent Nick was there. A slight scent of amber accompanied his appearance. An ahem preceded him observing, “close your mouth we are not codfish”. He was dressed as the last time I had seen him; red coat and pants trimmed with white fur. The delicate tinkle of crystal in the bag over his shoulder let me know it was full of bottles. His eyes sparkled with mischief. His dimples radiated joy. His cheeks were matching roses. The nose? That was a cherry. He gazed upon me with a smile surrounded by a beard white as snow.
Scent Nick had always made Christmas brighter for me. He let out a belly laugh which I always heard as “Eau, Eau, Eau” instead of the more traditional laugh he was known for. I asked excitedly what he had for me in the bag. He said to me, “Why complicate things that are really quite simple? Close your eyes and breathe in.”
As I did the scents of home washed over me. The cookies Mrs. C had cooling. The poodle’s sweet muskiness. Even the woodsmoke smell Scent Nick had stirred up upon his arrival. I heard a whisper in my ear, just before I opened my eyes, “Anything can happen if you let it.”
As I looked around, I heard Scent Nick whistle followed by the sound of the reindeer launching into the air. As I watched them fly away, he said “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night”. My heart filled with joy I turned from the window to see a delicate crystal flacon. The label on its side read “Eau de Family”.
The wind has shifted again with the departure of Scent Nick. The denizens of 17 Poodlesville Lane slept with a contented soul. Until it happens again a year from now.
I could easily have found a flacon labeled “Eau de Readers”. This year has brought me a great deal of joy sharing my thoughts about perfume. Part of that has been the interactions I have with many of you. To everyone who visits here I wish you the most magical of Holiday seasons. I think Scent Nick has some other stops to make.
When I tell people, I write about perfume the most frequent response I receive is, “Why?” My response usually takes a few seconds, maybe a minute, to say. I’ve realized there is a more succinct answer to the query, “Vero Kern”.
I would meet Vero for the first time through her perfume Rubj. Vero was at the forefront of independent perfumery. Those of you who have known Vero for longer will no doubt understand her wanting to be as independent about perfume as she was in the rest of her life. What it means when applied to fragrance making is an artist’s touch. The perfume you buy in the department store can be beautiful, but they are commerce. The kind of perfume Vero made was the expression of a creative mind who spoke in scented constructions. When I met Vero via Rubj Eau de Parfum I was greeted with the smell of passionfruit.
This is another aspect of Vero which I celebrate; the passion she gave to her work. In the form of the fruit but also in the meticulous way she designed her pieces. She didn’t release her first three perfumes until she had spent years achieving her vision. Those first three releases, Kiki. Onda, and Rubj were in the most concentrated form perfume takes, extrait. They were powerful statements of intent, of what perfume could aspire to. She dared you to see it differently.
Vero and Isi
The passionfruit arrived as she spent three years re-imagining her first three releases in a less concentrated form, eau de parfum. This is not just a process of dilution. It is a process of understanding what will happen upon making what was stronger more expansive. It opens spaces which need filling. Vero chose a little used perfume ingredient called passionfruit. The reason it was little used is it was an obstreperous material to use. No matter how much you tried to keep it down it would stubbornly get back up and persist. I think Vero might have recognized herself in that. How she would use that is she allowed the passionfruit to have those newly opened spaces in the lighter style of eau de parfum. She also made sure it wasn’t drowning out the inherent beauty.
In Rubj the passionfruit would find the outsized floral personalities of jasmine and orange blossom igniting a perfume which had all the sizzle of a huge firework exploding. This was the beauty one could only find from an independent artist like Vero.
I would come face-to-face with the outsized personality of Vero when I attended a large perfume expo in Milan. What came through in person was the mischievous glint in her eye. She had the artist’s disdain for the commercial style of perfume being displayed. I asked her what she thought. Of course, she answered that it was all dreadful. A few years later she had come to like me enough to use a more colorful term than dreadful.
Vero and I in Milan as she presented Rozy in 2014
My favorite memory of Vero happened at the same expo, three years later, in 2014. She was releasing her newest perfume Rozy. I had an appointment to meet her; allowing her to show me the new release. When I arrived, Vero was sitting in a chair sporting a black eye. My first thought was I bet the other person looks worse. When Vero told me, she had fallen I was somewhat relieved it was just an accident. There was a kind of rakish style to her one bruised eye behind her white-rimmed glasses. Despite all my concern about Vero when she handed me the strip of paper with the new perfume on it, magic happened. I was under the spell of what I consider to be the best post-modern rose perfume ever made. As I breathed in with eyes closed it was the same feeling I get when encountering artistic genius.
When I opened my eyes with a silly smile on my face the twinkle in her one bruised eye and one normal one showed she was pleased that she had one admirer of her work. Vero is the kind of artist who could only have thrived in the independent perfumery world. Her perfumes will continue to live and speak to her creativity. I have no doubt of that.
Vero’s perfumes will always carry the impact of her vision on the rest of my life. I will miss the joie de vivre of the person who enjoyed creating art via perfume.
We’ve reached the midway point of 2017 which causes me to pause and take stock of what the year has been like in fragrance so far. In very general terms I think it has been the best year at this point since I started Colognoisseur in 2014. Here are some more specific thoughts.
–Many of the leaders of artistic perfumery have stepped up in 2017.Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious is an example as perfumer Dominique Ropion working with the other two names on the bottle created a hazy memory of vintage perfume. Christine Nagel composed Hermes Eau des Meveilles Bleue a brilliant interpretation of the aquatic genre. Clara Molloy and Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of working together with Eau de Memo; it turns into a celebration of what’s right in this sector.
–The independent perfumers have continued to thrive. In the independent sector, very individual statements have found an audience. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, Vero Profumo Naja, Imaginary Authors Saint Julep, and Tauer L’Eau. Plus, I have another four I could have added but I haven’t reviewed them yet. My enthusiasm when I do will give them away. There is a bounty of creativity thriving on the outskirts of town.
–Standing out on their own. Two perfumers I admire struck out on their own establishing their own brands. Michel Almairac created Parle Moi de Parfum. Jean-Michel Duriez has put his name on the label and opened a boutique in Paris. Both show each perfumer allowing their creativity unfettered freedom to some great results.
-Getting better and better. I look to see if young brands can continue the momentum they begin with. The two Vilhelm Parfumerie releases; Do Not Disturb and Harlem Bloom, have shown this brand is creating a deeply satisfying collection. Masque Milano is also doing that. Their latest release Times Square shows creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are unafraid to take risks. In the case of Times Square, it succeeds. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes keeps trusting his instincts while working with some of the best indie perfumers. He and Shelley Waddington got 2017 off to a flying start with Civet.
-Mass-market has been good but not great. I have found much to like at the mall in the first half of this year. Much more than last year. My problem is I think I’m going to have to remind myself about these perfumes a year from now. I think they are trying to take tiny steps towards something new. It might even be the right choice for this sector of fragrance buyer, the exception is Cartier Baiser Fou.Mathilde Laurent’s evocation of fruit flavored lip gloss; that I’m going to remember.
–The Teacher’s Pets are Rodrigo and Luca. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has always been one of my favorite perfumers. For 2017 he has returned to his roots in Mexico where he produced two collections of exceptional perfume. For Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio in conjunction with Carlos Huber they created a luxurious look at the country of their birth. Sr. Flores-Roux then collaborated with Veronica Alejandra Pena on a new line based in Mexico City; Xinu. These were perfumes which allowed him to indulge an indie sensibility. It all came together in Monstera a crunchy green gem of a fragrance. That leaves out the three Black Collection perfumes he did for Carner Barcelona; and those should not be left out.
Luca Maffei is one of the many reasons for the Renaissance of Italian Perfumery. In 2017, it seems like he is trying to prove it all on his own. He has been behind eleven releases by seven different brands. Taken together they show his exceptional versatility. The one which really shows this off is the work he did for Fath’s Essentials. Working with creative director Rania Naim he took all his Italian inspiration and transformed it into a characteristic French aesthetic. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lilas Exquis.
I am glad I still have six months’ time to find some daylight between these two for my Perfumer of the Year. Right now I’d have to declare it a tie.
My overall grade for Perfume 2017 at the midterm is a solid B+ there is much more to be admired than to make me slap my forehead. I am looking forward to the rest of the term to finalize this grade, hopefully upward.
When the discussion turns to what the first niche perfume was it has some different answers depending on who you ask. While the early pioneers started in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s I would say that niche perfume became defined in the 1990’s. I would further aver that one of the brands which did that was Comme des Garcons.
That started in 1994 when Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo had Christian Astuguevieille oversee the foundation of the fragrance section of the brand. From that moment M. Astuguevieille has developed what has become one of the most influential niche brands in the industry which continues to be influential today. One of the things that twenty-three years of perfume making offers is a chance for perspective. It is easier to know which perfumes within the collection have been those signposts.
Why I am writing about this is Comme des Garcons is bringing back those early releases back to the market under the name of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. As of June 19, 2017, you will be able to find ten releases of these seminal perfumes in the niche sector.
First and foremost, in the ten re-releases is the very first Comme des Garcons Eau de Cologne from 1994. Perfumer Mark Buxton would be one of the first to take a traditional fragrance architecture and turn it inside-out. What really blows me away is it still smells relevant today. This is no anachronism.
Three of the truly ground-breaking Series 6: Synthetic scents are part of this as Garage, Soda, and Tar make their return. When this was released, in 2004, it was marketed as “anti-perfume to the extreme”. What it asked was is there room in this new branch of artistic-minded perfumery for exploring real smells. All three of these are answers to that question.
The remaining six are two choices each from Series 1: Leaves, Series 2: Red, and Series 7: Sweet. Calamus from the Series 1: Leaves is one of perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s best green perfumes. He would return for Series 2: Red Sequoia with a booze-infused redwood forest; also included in this retrospective. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer did both Tar and Soda but if you want to see one of the forerunners of the gourmand style of fragrance Series 7: Sweet Sticky Cake provides that.
I’m leaving out expanding on Series 2: Red Palisander and Series 1: Leaves Lily and Series 7: Sweet Nomad Tea each of which also defined Comme des Garcons in the years of 1994-2005. Throughout there is the sure hand of M. Astuguevieille guiding Comme des Garcons to remain one of the leaders in a sector it helped broaden..
The overall concept of the Olfactory Library is for Comme des Garcons to continue to bring back the past in consistent sets of releases going forward. There are some amazing perfumes in that history to be given the opportunity to be discovered by this generation of perfume lovers.
As I work my way through giving a try to everything which makes its way to me there are times some of the flankers command a little more attention than usual. When I think they’re really good I’ll do my usual wearing of them for their own review. When I think they might be above average and worth my mentioning I do one of these Flanker Round-Ups. As I was testing the summer releases for 2017 I was intrigued that two of the original mass-market brands turned out something more than the run of the mill. A caveat to this I only wore each of these on one arm for a weekend morning making these less informed reviews than I normally write.
Cool Water Wave
I think Cool Water is one of the great perfumes ever made. When Pierre Bourdon essentially created the aquatic genre of perfume in 1988 it truly was an inflection point for the industry. Davidoff has ever since used that phenomenon to create yearly flankers of Cool Water. Most of the time they don’t present much of anything different this year’s version Cool Water Wave does.
I smelled Cool Water Wave before knowing who the perfume team was behind it. My first impression was a modern take on the classic fougere M. Bourdon originally created. When I learned the perfumers behind it were Antoine Lie, Francis Kurkdjian, and Jean Jacques it was easy to see where that modernity came from.
Cool Water Wave begins with grapefruit and Sichuan pepper. The choice to allow the spicy pepper to point towards the sulfurous undertone of grapefruit is what first caught my attention. This is followed up with the rough green of birch leaves over the chill of gin-like juniper berry. These early phases are what is worth giving Cool Water Wave a try. It ends on a generic sandalwood which does nothing but act as an ending place.
Cool Water Wave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
He Wood Cologne
In 2007, He Wood was released and immediately became a big seller. My explanation for the popularity of this perfume is when someone wanted a woody perfume you can’t go wrong with one which has the word in the name. Perfumer Daphne Bugey combined fir, cedar, and vetiver into something for the man who wanted wood and nothing else. I was not that man. Whenever I have subsequently received other releases over the years it was almost always described on my spreadsheet as,” wood and lots of it”. Nothing wrong with a fragrance that lacks nuance; there is obviously a market for it. Which was why when I tried He Wood Cologne in celebration of the 10th anniversary I expected to do the same.
Except the strip I sprayed it on had more than wood and lots of it. There was a citrus cologne top and the violet heart has some room to make an impression. The same thing happened when it was on my skin. Mme Bugey got the opportunity to find more than woods in He Wood Cologne.
The biggest change is a snappy citrus accord of lemon, orange, and ginger which immediately provided a cologne-like feel. The fir that the original opened with is still here but the citrus is on an equal footing and both are kept at a way softer volume than the original. That is what I think allows the violet to breathe some life into this as it makes an impression before the cedar and vetiver remind you what this perfume is the cologne version of.
He Wood Cologne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’ve walked away when seeing a new Cool Water of He Wood on the department store counter stop and give these a try on a strip. You might be surprised, too. Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Davidoff and He Wood.