No introductory musings are necessary here: I’ve found a gem. Finally. Lots of fragrances cross my editorial desk, and very few of them make it to the column for review. Unlike beauty editors of magazines, who are constrained to some extent by the fact that fragrance brands pay big advertising bucks for product placement in the magazines, I’m free to say whatever I want. Yes, the brands send me samples–if I choose to solicit a sample after receiving their press release email–but I usually only take the time to write about things that smell really really good or really really bad.
So, here’s the press release that I received from John Varvatos: “Platinum Edition celebrates the John Varvatos Collection heritage and embraces the rock n’ roll influence that is reminiscent of the brand and the man who wears it.” Ok, you’ve got my attention. I like rock n’ roll! But let’s be real. When mass market and prestige fragrances do rock n’ roll–when mass market and prestige fragrances do anything for men–it’s like, “here’s a little rock n’ roll, and a biiiiiiiiiig blast of Acqua di Gio, because, you know, that’s still the biggest money maker out there in men’s fragrance right now, and what are we trying to do here besides make money?” I remember how hopeful we all were the morning Juicy Couture’s Dirty English appeared on our Sephora’s shelves. Even coming from Juicy Couture, with a name like Dirty English, it’s got to make you smell cool…like…I don’t know…you play in Led Zeppelin or something. Alas, it was not to be. Just another typical masculine with a vague, slightly nauseating sweetness. Next!
The only reason I requested a sample of the Varvatos is because I feel that, even for prestige market men’s fragrances, his stuff has come so tantalizingly close to perfection before. Artisan was almost there; beautiful packaging, unique enough scent made with quality ingredients. It only missed the mark for me because it wasn’t dirty enough, and I guess I like my men to smell like they went surfing, ran a mile, chopped wood, sat by a bonfire, and had a glass of scotch–all in the same tshirt. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I like to borrow the shirt. I’m one of those girls. I like to wear dirty, skanky men’s fragrances–I love me some Chanel Antaeus (the frag my husband wore on our first date), Narciso Rodriguez Musc for him, and Bvlgari Black. The trick to wearing men’s fragrance, though, is that any note of Acqua di Gio–that aquatic blast of men’s deodorant generic smell that shoots through 99% of mass market and prestige men’s fragrances in the US–is an absolute and immediate deal breaker. I love to smell rugged, but I don’t like to smell like I’m just wearing men’s deodorant.
So, this is my state of mind whenever I’m smelling a new men’s fragrance. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst–because, honestly, only the three I’ve mentioned above fit the bill. Here’s the description Varvatos sent me along with the sample vial of Platinum Edition:
Top notes: bergamot, Chinotto orange, Ceylonese cinnamon, clary sage, coriander, and myrtle
Middle notes: Patchouli ORPUR, Haitian vetyver roots, and “the classic rock ‘n’ roll aroma of ultra shiny black leather”
Base notes: amber, rich citrus resin, and Tamboti wood
I spray it on. First impression? Good. No Acqua di Gio. Yes, I’m getting citrus, but the warmth of the spices keep it from being too clean. Here comes the patchouli, and it’s a good one. Not headachey; reminiscent of the true head shop patch I used to buy in the 1990s at Passport to Peru in Coventry, imported from India and probably sitting around there for who knows how long, resinous and sticky-oily around the little glass vial’s cap. The real deal, totally legit. Good stuff. I’m getting that. With the leather, it’s like a little bottle of Jim Morrison sweaty leather pants swagger. I’m feeling that. I mean, it doesn’t smell like Jim Morrison’s sweaty leather pants–sorry for that image–it smells like someone with that kind of swagger. It’s very well done.
The patchouli endures for hours before fading into a softer, less distinct woodsy drydown. The sillage is moderate for such a potent fragrance, which I like–it makes it more like a skin scent. Longevity is pretty good, but not so intense that you’re going to get a headache. It dries down with echoes of what it’s been the whole time, for a warm and enveloping feeling that doesn’t overwhelm.
Overall impression? It smells like you’ve been somewhere interesting, up to something artsy and definitely cooler than usual. You definitely want to get to know the person who’s wearing this fragrance. It’s usually a scent that has to be earned–you actually wear great patchouli and broken-in leather pants, like previously referenced rock star–or you buy this stuff and get pretty darn close with a single spray.
The creation is the result of the perfumer’s fantasy–Givaudan Senior Perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who explains that Platinum Edition was “built slowly and meticulously using some of my personal favorite fragrance notes.” You can feel that; it’s extremely well done, and the ingredients are very high quality. It’s far more complex than its fellow prestige market scents, and definitely worth checking out.
Four stars–and, for the record, I reserve five stars for what I think is the greatest scent of all time, Chanel Bois des Iles. Everything else that’s pretty damn great gets four. So, four it is–an enthusiastic four.