Names have a funny way of shaping one’s expectations, so when Masque Milano told me that the name of its forthcoming scent would be “Hemingway” and a tribute to the author, I had a certain olfactory profile in mind. I associate the author with the scent of rum, whisky, bourbon, and cigars, but Hemingway the fragrance was something quite different. To my surprise, however, alcohol did end up being unexpectedly involved, even if it was not actually intended to be a part of the scent and even if it wasn’t the sort that I had expected.
Rich, bold, powerhouse fragrances for a bargain price, what could be better? There is a definite advantage in going vintage, and Giorgio For Men is a perfect example of why: addictive patchouli is layered with loads of genuine oakmoss, Cuir de Russie-style birch leather, and gales of spices and amber, then lashed with honey, iris-orris butter, sandalwood, citruses, dry cedar, chocolate, vanilla, and silky cream. It’s all presented in a seamless, complex, long-lasting and audaciously intense concoction with parallels to both vintage legends and modern niche, except Giorgio costs a pittance of the price of most fragrances in those categories and it also contains high levels of raw materials now limited or banned in perfumery.
For a mere $30, I purchased a large, 95% full, 120 ml or 4 oz bottle whose scent bore echoes of fragrances which came both long before it and long after it: legends like vintage Givenchy Gentleman and popular modern creations like Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834, Chanel‘s Coromandel, and Guerlain‘s LIDGE. Throughout its long lifespan, Giorgio’s character changed from the ruggedly polished but elegant 1980s alpha male to the unisex, modern, and addictively, delectably cuddly. While there are a handful of small issues with the fragrance, mostly if one sprays a lot of it, they’re minor in the overall scheme of things and the low price makes them easy to ignore. In short, this is a scent well worth looking up.
“Something that feels familiar yet also unexpected…” — so reads one part of Roja Dove’s official description for Britannia, and it is a somewhat accurate description. This is a fragrance which does indeed smell very familiar, thanks to the way it echoes, at different points in time, everything from vintage L’Origan and vintage L’Heure Bleue to modern gourmand floral orientals and modern spicy-woody oriental ambers, including several from Roja Parfums. For me, the “unexpected” part of the equation arises from the degree to which Britannia’s first stage harkens back to the opulent vintage aesthetic which had originally made Roja Dove so incredibly popular, rather than the mainstream designer or Middle Eastern bouquets which have characterized so many of his recent releases over the last two and a half years.
Veleno Doré, part of LM Parfums‘ high-end Gold Label Collection, is lovely but also exceedingly familiar. It’s an oriental parfum which is initially centered around vanilla-infused, fruity pipe tobacco, laced with patchouli, enveloped in spices, then drenched in cognac booziness, syrupy sweetness, and caramel ambers. A tiny, early echo of Ambre Loup quickly gives way to major overlaps with Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanilla and Roja Dove‘s Enigma Pour Homme/Creation-E and a whisper of Kilian‘s Back to Black, except this is their heavily spiced, chili-flecked brother, and black cherry has been substituted for plums or plum pudding. Over time, woodier, drier, smokier, more leathery, and more woody-ambered elements replace the gourmand-skewing ones for a different twist on tobacco but this, too, feels familiar with echoes of other popular fragrances, like Black Oud and even Black Afgano.