Body Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent)

The press for Body Kouros confuses me. I get it: Annick Menardo was doing Annick Menardo à la Bulgari Black, which hit shelves two years prior in 1998. It has been called an "oriental spicy fragrance," an incense fragrance, a eucalyptus bomb, etc. My problem stems not from these descriptions, but from what I actually smell. Granted, I'm talking about the version of BK pictured here, which is the "lame reformulation," all chrome shoulderless and neutered. But given my distaste for eucalyptus in perfumery, my general apathy towards orientals, and the need to smell something without a candied chemical apple note, BK came as a surprise.

This stuff smells pretty good, and surprisingly mature for what I always considered a club scent (from reading the "panty dropper" comments on basenotes years ago). It starts off with a burst of eucalyptus and anise, followed by a warmer benzoin and incense accord that manages to smell comfortable without losing its gentle sense of humor. Yet nowhere do I smell a masterpiece of the late twentieth century. The "fresh" component on top is attenuated, definitely from reformulation, and now is little more than a thin hiss. If BK was once a blushing spicy oriental, those days are gone; the composition relies heavily on two scant notes of ambery benzoin and silvery incense, neither of which lend the scent significant body or complexity. And I don't even get much of a youthful feel. If anything, BK is staid and gentlemanly, the mark of a mature scent.

Perhaps the only way to understand this version of BK is to compare it to the original Kouros. That scent used to be a carnival of testosterone, brimming with all the charisma and romance of an eighties powerhouse fougeriental. Today it still paws the dirt and lowers its horns, but the rush is diminished, and we're forced to make do with an overdose of eugenol where once we enjoyed civet and raw honey. I guess a similar fate met Body Kouros, which I imagine delivered considerable swagger in the semisweet powder puff style of its era. It's still a very good scent, and still worth checking out if you're into modern orientals, but if I want something with powerful aromatics and strong incense, I'll stick with Jacques Bogart's Furyo or Roccobarocco's Joint Pour Homme.


Incredible Things (EA Fragrances)

I'll admit to some bias with Incredible Things; my girlfriend wears it and it smells terrific on her. I don't believe in "skin chemistry" (although I do believe in hygiene), so I'm not saying that there's anything about anyone's skin that makes a fragrance smell differently. This scent seems to be tailored for her though; it fits her personality, her liveliness, her beauty, and I'm impressed with this inexpensive celebuscent. I can't deny that it smells great, and the body lotion works well with it.

Taylor Swift apparently likes eating ambrosia for dessert, because that's what Incredible Things smells like. It's an appetizing gourmand featuring soft analogs of pineapple, coconut, mandarin orange, and vanilla. The sweetness gently drifts into marshmallow, without being obvious and overbearing. There are no piercing accords, no loud ethyl maltol notes, and nothing that screams DRUGSTORE into my nostrils. It's a very happy scent, and yes, it's sweet, but it's also a touch green (a little minty), and it comes together as something classy and mature. It doesn't smell like teeny-bopper crap. It's not "sneaker juice." It's sexy, it's demure, and it works.

When it comes to fragrance, the label and box mean nothing. Taylor Swift's association begins and ends with the ink they used to print her name. Nothing about Incredible Things evokes Ms. Swift, nor should it. What you find is that celebrity scents are just like the rest: they smell good or they don't, and the marketing is irrelevant - it's the quality that matters. I don't know who is really behind this fragrance, but I applaud them for having the sense of off-kilter romance to take an old-fashioned dessert and make it into a perfume.


What Kind Of Product Improves A Kiss?

"I'll send you a postcard."

In the quest for true love, many men aspire for exotic and expensive EDTs and perfumes, hoping that if their bodies smell like money, their girlfriends will melt in their arms. This is a worthy pursuit, and a good theory, but in practice there are some flaws.

It's true that a good fragrance will turn women on. Smelling like you just came off the farm is obviously a major no-no in 2017. And your body's odor reflects inarguably the quality of tenderness and care two people put into lovemaking. If you're disturbed or even disgusted by the other's smell, or if hygiene questions arise, that's trouble.

But perhaps less obvious to fragheads is what it means to smell romantic. What do two people do when they're in the mood? When they're not necessarily in the mood, but in a mood for closeness and a moment? They kiss! And that's when aftershave becomes a man's best friend. If his face smells good, then the kiss is something that draws her in on a few levels. I've had personal experience with this. The truth is that a clean-smelling face makes a woman want to kiss you longer, and the longer she wants to kiss you, the closer she feels to you. From that point you can pretty much explore other avenues of your relationship.

The best part about this is you don't have to smell expensive. Just smell good. Myrsol Formula K and Old Spice have been my two aftershaves of choice for the last few weeks, and the woman I'm seeing has noticed that and happily commended on it. I once wore Brut - she liked it. We're talking basic scents here. Mint, some lavender, some spiced powder. "You smell like baby powder," was her comment on Old Spice today, and when I told her it was just Old Spice, she laughed and said, "You always say that!" As if it smelled so much better than lowly Old Spice.

I'm skeptical in many ways of cheap aftershaves being used as SOTDs or hygiene substitutes. There are thousands of guys out there that think a few splashes of Florida Water and a cigar will attract women. I can say with total certainty that unless you prowl trailer parks, that's probably a bad plan. But if you put a little Florida Water on your cheeks and pair it with something like Versace L'Homme, you now have an invisible arsenal at your disposal, ready to weaken knees.

In the quest for true love, many men aspire for extravagance. Don't be that kind of guy. Just be yourself, and if you use aftershave (or scented balms) in your normal routine, don't change that for her. Continue it for her. It's a good thing.


Hot Spice (Arion Perfume & Beauty Inc.)

I did not expect to be writing this review, namely because I bought this fragrance at Dollar Tree for a whopping fifty cents an ounce. That's right - I bought a 2.5 oz cologne for $1. This is what people call a "dollar store scent." It is a dollar store scent. Why did I buy a dollar store scent? What could possess me to waste a dollar on an acrid, alcohol-scented piece of crap?

Well, for starters, I bought it based on how it smelled when I snuck a spray in the store. The plain grey box says, "compare to Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf." I figured it would smell briefly like something in Spicebomb's ball park, perhaps for fifteen seconds, and then vanish into thin air. But it really doesn't smell anything like Spicebomb. What it does smell like is a sweeter version of Indian Old Spice, with a creamier shaving foam drydown. If you "stack" this thing and apply multiple sprays to the same spot, you wind up with a nutmeg-laden gingerbread cookie effect. Go lightly with it and it has a cumin, black pepper, and pink pepper top, which dries into a gentle sugared sandalwood, with that abstract powdery sweetness of Old Spice.

This could easily be considered a replacement for any iteration of Old Spice, and I like it a hell of a lot better than Vi-Jon Spice Scent, which is not bad but definitely overrated in the wetshaver community. Vi-Jon dries into a plasticky synthetic nastiness that ruins the niceness of its top notes, but Hot Spice never loses its subtle spicy sweetness to any overtly synthetic overtones. I do get a little bit of a Joop! Homme or Individuel type of sweetness in the blend, but it isn't overbearing and just complements the spice notes. The ingredients list says it has hydrogenated castor oil in it, and the liquid feels pretty soft on my skin, so I think it's a viable choice as an aftershave, which I will likely use it as in the coming months.

It's made in India, and I guess that explains the blast of skanky cumin accompanying the pepper notes on top. I'm shocked by the quality of this stuff, shocked that it smells complex enough for me to pick out eight different notes (cumin, pink & black pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, sandalwood, orange, and neroli), and completely shocked that it can compete with Old Spice for my affections.

If you live in the United States and have a Dollar Tree in your area, and you're into wetshaving and various "Spice Scent" aftershaves in the Old Spice vein, I suggest you get over there and see if they have a few bottles of Hot Spice. This stuff will make it into your shaving rotation, guaranteed.


Barbasol Brisk (Perio Inc.)

At least one Fragrantica member disagreed with me recently when I stated that Barbasol Brisk aftershave is basically a copy of Skin Bracer, which I thought was remarkable. If you're familiar with both aftershaves, you know that they both employ a fougere structure with prominent lavender and mint on top, a tingly coumarin in the heart, and a dry semisweet vanilla blended with a touch of clean musk in the base. Both are classic "wetshaver" scents with intensely cooling menthol that rivals even Myrsol's Formula K. Brisk may even have more than Formula K. It's a potent menthol splash, so if you're into menthol, you'll like this particular Barbasol product.

There are a few differences between Brisk and Bracer, not the least of which is Brisk's mintier quality; Skin Bracer has a mellowed top that focuses on lavender more than mint. Brisk truly lives up to its name, while Skin "Bracer," while indeed bracing after a morning shave, aims to give a guy more than just a briefly cold bite. I think of Mennen's formula as more of a thought out fragrance, with a distinct dynamism in the drydown that yields surprising depth, making it comparable to 1990s vintage Brut cologne. I always feel the smoothness of its lavender and vanilla accords "melding" into a subtle beauty. It's excellent stuff.

Brisk never quite gets that far for me. It makes a few of the same moves in the first five minutes, but eventually flattens out into a very one dimensional musky mint thing that feels good and smells nice enough, but isn't quite as arresting. Does it smell like Barbasol's original shaving foam? Not in the least. If you want a great reference for how the foam used to smell prior to reformulation, check out Rive Gauche Pour Homme. It's an anisic patchouli fern that accurately generates the familiar lavender, lime peel, and powder effect of a classic shave. Still, Brisk is fun if you can find it, and is recommended to anyone who enjoys old-school aftershaves.


Revisiting Red For Men

I've been meaning to return to this fragrance for a while now, and only recently found a large bottle of the latest formula at a discount store, so thought I'd give it another go. A few years back I reviewed an older formula in a smaller bottle that I now know had spoiled a bit, which accounted for the funky coriander-like "off" note in the first minute of wear that turned me off to subsequent usage (I gifted it to a friend).

The new stuff doesn't have that issue, and otherwise smells exactly as I remember it. Actually, it smells better. This "refreshed" and facelifted formula has no oakmoss, or even treemoss, yet somehow smells woodier than I remembered. The whole point of Red is to wear something both "fresh" and "earthy," with that familiar lavender deodorant effect of Drakkar Noir peering through a dense underbrush of late summer saplings poking out of seasoned evergreen logs. While technically a chypre, it's a bit disingenuous for anyone to deny that there are strong fougere elements in Red, with an obvious lavender note and coumarin in the printed ingredient list. And yes, it smells quite a bit like Preferred Stock, but softer, more textured.

It's hard to know exactly where Red fits into the world of 2017. Whenever I smell it I think of 1991. I was nine years old. My parents took me and my younger brother to Europe for the summer, and the highlight of the trip was peering out the car window while driving through Dublin and seeing a gorgeous redhead trot along the sidewalk wearing a skintight sweater and very clearly no bra. That and sitting by the beach in Strandhill eating ice cream. The world was simpler then; men were like my dad, strong and virile, and women embraced their femininity with brutal perfumes and short haircuts. Plus there were better movies and grunge rock.

I suppose I can see a potent but sedate patchouli chypre like Red for Men going well with the times. What I find discouraging is the lack of initiative in today's fragrance market. With interesting fragrances like Preferred Stock, Red, Stetson Sierra, and Polo Crest now relegated to discount bins, you'd think a more current brand would take a risk and try reviving the style. I'm not an oud fan, but I could actually see oud working in this type of composition. I guess we must work with what we have.

Donald Trump is the leader of the free world, North Korea wants us all dead, Theresa May is the new Iron Lady, and Le Pen will hopefully prevail in France. Time to kick the globalists out and bring the old world and its olfactory charms back. Red for Men is a good place to start.


Al Rehab "Avenue" Alcohol-Free Concentrated Perfume Oil (Crown Perfumes)

In light of the fact that Creed will soon raise prices again on their entire fragrance line, now might be the time to consider getting into other things. If some of those other things include "clones," so be it. When it comes to Creed clones, choices abound. There are ten times more Creed clones than Creed fragrances, with every recent release getting at least a dozen copycat iterations at various price points. Which brings me to Al Rehab.

A faithful reader of this blog has recommended on several occasions that I try Crown's take on Aventus, named "Avenue." I approached Avenue with an open mind, expecting a typical Al Rehab-style execution of a Creed. Which is to say, I expected it would approximate Aventus pretty well, but as with Silver to SMW, figured it would smell much simpler. In truth, Avenue does resemble Aventus, but when I break it down in detail I find it is very much its own fragrance, with its own unique characteristics.

I consider Aventus a conceptual perfume. The concept is "success," and Creed's idea of "success" is to smell literally like dollar bills. After an hour on my skin, that's what Aventus smells like. Sure, I get the pineapple on top, along with red apple, citrus, birch, rose, oakmoss, and vanilla. Eventually the rubbery rose, the dry birch, and the bitter moss coalesce into a "clean smoke" kind of accord that flattens over time, until it smells like Federal Reserve ink. American money has a very distinct dirty-clean aroma, and Aventus captures it perfectly.

Avenue more or less achieves the same effect after a few hours on skin, so in this regard it is quite similar to Aventus, although Avenue's smokiness is from a dry patchouli note instead of moss and birch. That said, I think Avenue is much "fruitier" and far more citrus oriented than Aventus ever was, in any of its batches. The fruits in question are bergamot and lemon.

Avenue is bursting at the seams with crisp, vibrant bergamot, and conveys this note with such clarity and surprising quality that I'm shocked I haven't seen more accolades for Avenue from citrus fans. If you enjoy rich hesperidic scents, this scent should wow you.

Interestingly, Avenue has no pineapple or apple notes. So if you blind buy it hoping for a cheaper, more focused take on Aventus-styled pineapple, you'll be disappointed. The absence of pineapple definitely puts some distance between Avenue and Creed, to the point where I wonder if they were even trying to clone Aventus at all. But I prefer bergamot and lemon to pineapple, so this doesn't bother me.

When you think of Aventus, you automatically think of pineapple. When I think of Avenue, I can't help but think of bergamot. I believe there's even a subtler hint of Sicilian lemon blended into it, which makes the citrus effect that much more pronounced. At its price point I can safely say that anyone who wants a great citrus scent for pennies on the dollar would be remiss to not try Avenue. This is citrus heaven. I imagine enjoying this immensely on a sunny summer afternoon at a beach in Italy.

Also notable are quiet notes of silver frankincense, pine, and patchouli. The citrus explosion on top of Avenue lasts about twenty or thirty minutes, before segueing gradually into a very light accord of frankincense and pine. For a few seconds this early drydown stage resembles Pine Sol cleaning detergent, but fortunately the patchouli and frankincense rebalance things, and any chemical nastiness is short-lived. But look, that's the budget making itself known. What do you expect, right?

After an hour the patchouli, still heavily tinged with citrus, begins to "smoke up" the scent a bit, and the dollar bills idea appears. Here is where Avenue really resembles Aventus. It doesn't have the dry rose or the lucid birch notes of the Creed, but patchouli and incense can do interesting things, and here they shine.

Would I strongly recommend Avenue to someone seeking a faithful Aventus clone? Not really. I would mention it, however. I would say that Aventus is a concept that can be stretched and pulled into a few different directions, and one direction is to loosely take the concept of any fruit and mate it to something earthy and a bit "smoky." Avenue takes different fruits, distinctly tart citrus fruits, and tows them into that same "smoky" Aventus-like direction, without coming across as an obvious dupe.

I certainly would hasten to point out that Avenue is one of the best citrus bargains out there. Unlike other Crown oils I've tried, the fruits in Avenue actually smell like genuine citrus oils, and emit a feeling of depth and quality rarely found in fragrances that cost ten times as much, let alone Crowns' asking price of a few cents per milliliter.

This is a simple composition that achieves a sophisticated effect for the price of a bergamot at the supermarket. Buy it, wear it, and enjoy it. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain with Avenue. It's hands down the best Al Rehab I've tried.

Just don't tell people you're wearing Aventus. There's no point - Avenue smells great on its own merits, and deserves full credit for it.