The Orchid Man, the latest fragrance from the French luxury cognac house of Frapin has little to do with orchids or florals. And, for me, contrary to its inspiration, it doesn’t evoke fighters in the boxing ring, either. Instead, it conjures up Creed‘s Aventus. To be precise, a heavily peppered, less fruity cousin to Aventus in overtly synthetic form. I’d shrug, but the fragrance leaves me too bored to do even that.
I fear I may have to go into perfume Witness Protection after this one. The power of Creed, and the worship of its fragrance, Aventus, in particular, is such that anything short of blind, unswerving, unqualified adoration seems to upset a few of its fans. Well, let’s get this over with then: I like Aventus and think it’s a perfectly pleasant — even occasionally pretty — fragrance that I would enjoy wearing. I also think it’s an over-hyped, simple, thin, linear scent that carries with it some frustrating issues, and which isn’t worth the high price.
There, I said it: I think Aventus is over-hyped. In fact, I firmly believe that, if Aventus were ever sniffed blindly in an unmarked, plain flacon located in Macy’s or some mall, some of its admirers may not be quite so uncritical. In my eyes, the hype and the reputation (“panty-dropper”) are as much a part of Aventus as its famous pineapple note. Furthermore, to be honest, I find the blind, cultish worship of some of its younger acolytes, and their aggressive response to those who don’t share their unqualified adoration, to be extremely off-putting. With that said, I shall henceforth walk and sleep with a Kevlar vest….
Creed is a fragrance house with a long and storied history, dating back to 1760. According to the biographical blurb quoted by Bergdorf Goodman, the house is unusual in a few different ways:
Founded in 1760 and passed from father to son, Creed is the world’s only privately held luxury fragrance dynasty. Based in Paris, the company today is led by Olivier Creed, a sixth-generation master perfumer. […] Using the infusion technique (which has been abandoned by the modern industry), Creed weighs, mixes, macerates, and filters everything by hand. They also use the highest percentage of natural components in the prestigious French perfume industry..
For Aventus, Creed says it was inspired by “the dramatic life of a great, historic emperor, who waged war, peace and romance on terms he set, riding to power on horseback.” The fragrance seems to have been created primarily by Erwin Creed, the young, seventh-generation Creed perfumer, with input from his father, Olivier. The website states:
Royal but not imposing, CREED Aventus is made with ingredients hand selected worldwide by Erwin CREED, seventh generation of CREED and its future chief. Essences he chose were shipped to CREED’s French workshop, where father and son created Aventus using hand production methods that date to the founding of CREED in 1760.
According to Luckyscent, the fragrance is an eau de parfum, and its notes include:
black currant, bergamot, apple, pineapple, rose, birch, jasmine, patchouli, musk, oak moss, ambergris and vanilla.
Aventus opens on my skin with a burst of zesty, crisp, fresh bergamot, followed by the sweetness of pineapple and a hint of tart, green black currant. There is a quiet earthiness lurking about that feels like vetiver, but it is only a momentary impression. The primary bouquet is an incredibly pretty, airy, bright blend of bergamot’s crisp freshness infused with the succulent, pulpy, juiciness of pineapple. The fragrance feels very sheer and thin, though, so I added another huge smear (which almost emptied the rest of my vial) to the two large ones from my dab vial, for a total of 3 extremely large smears all up my forearm.
In just a few minutes, hints of oakmoss start to flitter about. It’s not fresh, springy, bright green moss, but rather something that feels like the real oakmoss absolute with its slightly mineralized, faintly salty, grey, musty characteristics. It smells a lot like tree bark and grey lichen. Quickly, it turns the citric, fruity freshness of Aventus into something drier and more layered. It almost feels akin to an aromatic fougère, minus its usual lavender underpinnings.
It also continues to feel very thin. I’ve read of men applying 10-12 big sprays of Aventus in one go and, at the time, I merely thought them to be extremely exuberant. Now, however, I understand it better. While aerosolisation definitely adds to a fragrance’s potency and longevity, Aventus seems like a scent that may well benefit from 10-12 sprays to give it some body and depth. I realise that I’m at a disadvantage in dabbing it, but I did put on quite a bit. Frankly, I’m keep struggling to believe that Aventus is ostensibly an eau de parfum, not a cologne (despite its name) or an eau de toilette.
Ten minutes in, Aventus is an extremely well-blended, elegant, refined blur of crisp, cologne-like citrus with dry, fusty, slightly mineralized oakmoss and hints of pineapple. There is a subtle woodiness in the base that reveals itself five minutes later as birch. It smells just like a smoky tree-bark with the faintest, tiniest nuance of ashiness. Birch can often have a tarry, phenolic character that makes it a common feature in leather fragrances, but not here. The note really calls to mind the delicate, silvery tree I saw in Sweden instead of anything dark, thick, and viscously tarry. Its advent turns the fragrance into a very mossy, woody scent with a subtle nuance of smokiness mixed with the crispness of citrus. The latter is quite muted now on my skin, and there are only subtle flickers of pineapple that occasionally pop up to add some countering sweetness. I wish there were more of the pineapple because it’s truly a beautiful touch and it adds an extremely interesting, original contrast to the woody-mossy accord. As a side note, the apple accord never appeared once on my skin, and the early hint of black-currant has faded away almost entirely.
Aventus remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. It’s a well-blended, airy, light swirl of birch and oakmoss, trailed by a crisp citrus note, pineapple, and a tinge of ashiness. To my happiness, the pineapple makes a more significant reappearance during the second hour for about thirty minutes before it sinks back into the overall bouquet. At the 2.5 hour point, the sillage drops and Aventus hovers about 2 inches above the skin. The notes no longer feel discrete, have started to overlap, and have lost all distinctive shape. Aventus, as a whole, feels wholly insubstantial in body, and is simply a nebulous haze of three primary notes: birch, oakmoss, and pineapple.
Despite the linearity of its core essence, there are a few, extremely subtle, changes in Aventus’ development. For a brief moment, at the start of the third hour, vanilla peeks its head around the curtain, but it’s pretty much a muted wallflower. For the most part, it serves only to have an indirect effect on the overall fragrance, adding some sweetness to the drier, woodier elements. It never screams “vanilla,” in any substantial, concrete way at all. But then, nothing about this fragrance feels substantial. At the end of the third hour, the jasmine makes a quiet appearance but, like the vanilla, it’s a mere suggestion more than a distinct, significant part of the fragrance. Around the same time, Aventus turns into a complete skin scent, calling to mind a balloon that has deflated.
From the 3.75 hour mark onwards, Aventus is a hazy, sheer, thin whisper of something vaguely mossy, woody, ashy, and fruity with a minuscule hint of sweet jasmine. I had to really inhale forcefully at my arm, with my nose right on the skin, to detect even that. Without such strenuous effort, I found it completely impossible to delineate any of the notes. Aventus remained a muted, flat blur until its very end when it was the merest suggestion of something vaguely fruity. All in all, it lasted just short of 5.5 hours on my skin, with extremely weak sillage after the first hour. I couldn’t detect any amber, musk, rose, or patchouli at any point in the fragrance’s development.
As a whole, my reactions are mixed: I thought Aventus was an extremely pretty scent at the beginning with an overall refined bent; I loved the evanescent pineapple bits; I wished the fragrance had more body, depth, and nuance; and I can see how it might be a wonderful scent for spring or in the hot, humid months of summer. I also thought Aventus to be extremely simple, linear, and faintly dull. Moreover, the longevity was a huge disappointment, and I really struggle with believing that Aventus is an eau de parfum and not a thin, weak cologne.
I’m not alone in terms of Aventus’ limited longevity on my skin. For a large number of people on Fragrantica, Aventus lasts between three and six hours. The precise breakdown of votes in the longevity department is as follows:
- 29 for “poor” (30 min-1 hr)
- 23 for “weak” (1-2 hrs)
- 106 for “moderate” (3-6 hrs)
- 228 for “long lasting” (7-12 hrs)
- 80 for “very long lasting” (12+ hrs)
Clearly, this is a fragrance that requires spraying, not dabbing, and a hell of a lot of spraying at that, but do I want something that requires 5-10 applications (of any kind) to be detectable and to really last? More to the point, is it financially feasible? A tiny 1 oz/30 ml bottle of Aventus costs $165, and that won’t last very long if I need to use a large number of sprays each time for the scent to have some traction on my skin. Still, Aventus is available in a large 4 oz/120 ml bottle from one online retailer for $188 which is a much more practical, affordable price for such a light, airy, summer-perfect scent. But then another issue arises: can one trust that bottle? Not only are there apparently tons of fakes on the market, especially on eBay, but, apparently, the scent of Aventus can vary from batch to batch.
The issue of batch numbers and variations is something that comes up frequently when talking about Creed fragrances, and Aventus, in specific. My sample came from Surrender to Chance and was purchased a while ago, so I’m not sure which batch it came from. Surrender to Chance says that it buys most of its bottles directly from Creed, or, if not, then from Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t know what to make of the batch issue or the way people pour over the numbers, with some being able to spout off the differences at the top of their head. The whole thing seems to be an incredible pain in the tush if true. How does one deal with such uncertainty? Plus, there seems to be the implication that one won’t even get an authentic Creed bottle if one buys it from anywhere else but the store itself or a few high-end stores. So that discounted bottle I mentioned earlier might as well not exist and, even if it’s authentic, who know what it will smell like?
Making matters more complicated still are some commentators who argue that there is no such thing as batch variations. Take, for example, these two very interesting arguments from different Fragrantica commentators:
- I don’t buy into batch variations I’ve smelled Z01 all the way up to the 2013 batches and its all the same.
- Forget about batch variations because that’s just a way for the fanboys to discredit your opinion.
If there really is no difference between batches, then why is there a 36-page discussion on Basenotes devoted solely to the different lots and how they smell? There seem to be too many firmly convinced people for the variations to be mere figments of their imagination. Either way, buying a Creed fragrance, but Aventus in particular, seems to entail a lot of work. As one person in that Basenotes thread joked, “[i]t’s almost like buying a car….” I can only shudder.
For me, the more interesting thing is the comment by the second Fragrantica poster quoted above regarding fanboys discrediting other people’s opinions. It supports something that has always really bothered me: I’ve seen some nasty behavior when it comes to Creed. Not by everyone, mind you, and not across the board, but enough to be truly noticeable as a small trend. In one group I occasionally read, a member was attacked as not knowing her stuff or being a real perfumista because she was underwhelmed by Creed as a brand. Elsewhere, I’ve seen chest-thumping braggadocio from some Creed fans about how Aventus is a total “panty-dropper” (a phrase that I find utterly revolting), or comments to the effect of “real men wear Aventus,” as if anyone who dislikes the fragrance isn’t a real man. The fans who display either type of cocky, superior, disparaging, or obsessive behavior tend to be on the younger side, but age is no excuse. As many of my usual readers know, I adore Serge Lutens fragrances, but I don’t like all of them, I had problems with a number of them, and have even given a few the ultimate, negative criticism: “boring.” Moreover, I’ve never attacked someone who dislikes a Serge Lutens fragrance that I love.
So, why does Aventus inspire such blind worship in some quarters? I think the hype has taken on a life all of its own, and has created a snowballing effect quite similar to that of Nasomatto‘s Black Afgano. Like Aventus, Black Afgano carries a certain sort of macho reputation that a few of its younger fanboys seem to use as a reflection of their own toughness or masculinity. It’s as if they think the fragrance’s reputation — “panty-dropper” in the case of Aventus, and super-macho edginess with the lure of the forbidden in the case of Black Afgano — will rub off on them, give them a sort of street cred, or enhance their own masculinity. Yet, one can question or dislike Black Afgano without some of its fans turning on you with pitchforks. Creed, however, seems to be in a class all its own.
In the case of Aventus, some have stated that the fragrance appeals to a younger crowd than Creed’s older, more traditional offerings, so perhaps age and immaturity have something to do with it, too. One blogger, The Scentrist, found Aventus to be very much Erwin Creed’s fragrance, more than his father’s, and that it “skewed toward a younger audience.” Either way, the hype is bad enough, without adding in the related, chest-thumping aggressiveness and defensiveness of what a friend of mine calls “a few bad apples.” Yet, there are enough of those bad apples to completely put him off trying any more Creed fragrances. I completely understand. I’ve had a sample of Aventus and Green Irish Tweed for over nine months, and it’s been hard to get motivated to go near either one.
On some levels, I know it’s not fair. As noted up above, Aventus is a really pretty scent at times, and I think its fresh, light, airy crispness would make it a nice choice in hot weather. In fact, I would probably wear Aventus if a bottle ever fell into my lap, especially if it were a bottle large enough for me to practically bathe in the scent as is clearly necessary for my skin. Nonetheless, to consider Aventus the Be-All, End-All, the Holy Grail, and the best fragrance ever made? I think that goes too far. To attack other perfumistas for not bowing at the altar of Aventus goes even farther still. In fact, I really have wonder if some of the fanboys would adore Aventus quite so unilaterally and unconditionally if they ever smelled it in an unmarked, unlabeled, plain bottle in the corner of Macy’s and priced at $50? I suspect a blind test would be quite revealing.
At the end of the day, however, fragrance is a wholly subjective issue. While I would normally link to a variety of different blog reviews or countering experiences to give you some sort of sense of what people think about Aventus, I won’t in this case. The fragrance is too well-known, there is too much of a polarity between those who worship it and those who think it’s over-hyped, and there is the added complication of possible batch variations. The bottom line is that you either love it, or you don’t. If you’re one of those people who thinks Aventus is the best thing to exist in every possible solar system, I’m very happy you’ve found something you love so much. We should all have fragrances like that! My opinion is different: I think it’s an extremely pleasant, elegant, refined fragrance that is also linear, simple, mundane, ultimately unexciting, and not worth the cost. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my bulletproof vest, and go into hiding….