Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After the Fire: Fahrenheit Absolute

I love all three iterations of Dior’s Fahrenheit. It is one of those pitch-perfect mainstream fragrances (like Grey Flannel) that never bores this nose. Violet leaf here achieves its most aromatic accord with a host of floral notes that run the gamut from gravelly hawthorn to a green almost-sugary honeysuckle. In its latest flanker, Fahrenheit Absolute, the florals are subdued while the base is amped up. As Octavian Coifan notes on 1000Fragrances, “Not the top notes and the freshness of Fahrenheit were accentuated, but the deepest dark notes.” If the original Fahrenheit were all the petrol-laden flint and florals of a fine Mosel Riesling, the Absolute version is that idea translated to the inside of a toasted barrel and left there for a long, long time.

Fahrenheit Absolute has the sweetness of spirits--sweetness that gets you in the back of your throat right after the burn subsides. Think
Armagnac-Ténarèze, a newish Hine Cognac, a sherry-cask single-malt Scotch whisky or a very unabashed Reposado.

My only gripe: I wish the leather note lasted longer. An hour-and-a-half is all it takes before the incense and guaiac are more apparent. Ah, give me the pencil shavings-and-leather of Montale Aoud Leather. All that said, this is one kitchen that’s too hot for the likes of me. A great winter ’09/10 men’s offering. I hope it comes to the States soon.

Image credit: Francois Truffaut, Fahrenheit 451, 35mm film still.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Into the Woods: Men’s Fragrance Fall ’09

Looking back over the F/W 2009 menswear collections on occasioned some thoughts on which fragrances guys should consider exploring in the months to come. It is, after all, so true that most men just wear what they’ve been wearing – but how to reconcile that with the new direction that their styling of themselves is taking them? Up until now, I saw three main camps: the thrifts (guys who basically won’t consider spending over $45 on fragrance or whose idea of fragrance is their deodorant stick); the jocks (for whom everything in cool blue glass was acceptable, as long as it didn’t clash with the free gel at the gym); and, finally, the traditionalists (Dad wore it, so I wear it). I’m leaving out the hipsters and the stylist types, as their impact on the overall market has been negligible. Each of these camps was a microcosm, insular and often impenetrable. That has all changed.

Guys are taking stock of their lives and making an honest assessment of who they are and who they aren’t – they’re choosing to wear things in a new way, one that blends innovation with the things they’ve always felt comfortable in. It’s ultimately about individuality. It’s about taking that old, time-softened flannel shirt and mashing it up with a chunky cardigan and a black silk tie, classic Levi’s and suede moccasins. It’s about grabbing a leather duffel or Filson instead of a clunky black laptop bag. It seems very much like a dressed-up rusticity. It reminds me of what colognes like Polo used to represent.

Woods, resins and green-leathers are the rising stars of men’s fragrance notes in Fall 2009 – woods that remind us of the casks used for aging deep, full-bodied red wines and spirits like bourbon and rye. The oud craze will impact this a little, with perfumers looking back at ahead-of-their-time creations, like Yves Saint Laurent’s M7 (from the louche Tom Ford years) and Zirh Ikon. The difference will be that the really successful new scents will ally rusticity with cleanliness. (Aside here: I abhor the fragrance connoisseurs who see gameyness as the sign of profundity. Skatol does not a great fragrance make.) Tom Ford’s Private Blend scents such as Oud Wood, Bois Rouge, Tuscan Leather and Arabian Wood, get this down pat. The truly successful scents will also last on the skin and, while their linear nature may not win them the critics, their drydowns will beguile.

What will I be wearing this fall? First off, Creed’s Epicea (whose pine and spice makes me feel like I’ve returned to the original world of Polo, without the teenage prep school angst), Nasomatto’s Black Afgano (which will be splashed on scarves and bulky woolens), Montale’s Aoud Leather (pared-down perfection, so different than everything else in that behemoth collection) and Amouage Epic for Men (I’ve died and either woken up on the set of Lawrence of Arabia or the trapeze in Lola Montès).

What’s definitely out? Flowers for men (that’s so 2007). Big ostentatious incenses (God is dead). One-note aquatics (if you want water, book some tickets to the Bahamas).

So fill your flasks, guys, grab your copy of Walden, Schott’s Miscellany and a Moleskin or two and start marching to your own beat. I assure you, you won’t be alone.

Image credit: Anthony Goicolea, Treedwellers (2004). Courtesy of Torch Gallery, Artworld Online.