One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No Hippie: Michael for Men

Most men's scents nowadays are carbon copies of one another, minor variations on a few well-worn themes. (How can they keep cranking out the same fresh-ozonic scent over and over again?) Sometimes, though, I smell something that's so different that my reaction is instantaneous: I have to own this right now! That's what happened with Michael Kors' Michael for Men a few years ago: I bought it on the spot and I still love it, even though I'm generally very fickle. I've been wearing it since it was launched--it's available at all the discount retailers, and I could buy a 125-mL bottle for $19.99 if I needed more of it.

The odd thing is that I really don't much like patchouli as a dominant note. I wanted to love L'Artisan Parfumeur's Voleur de Rose ("Thief of Roses"), which is primarily rose, patchouli, and plum, because I'd love to wear a really masculine rose scent, but the patchouli note was so strong and coarse that I found it almost nauseating. Ditto with their Patchouli Patch, Etro's Patchouly, Salvador Dali Pour Homme--well, pretty much anything that really focuses on the scent. But Michael for Men is built around the note, and yet I can't get enough of it. (Perhaps the addition of leather is what it takes: Chanel's Antaeus is also heavy on the patchouli, but it too works beautifully on me.)

There isn't much in Michael for Men that's unusual:

Top Notes
Bergamot, Elemi, Cardamom, Tarragon, Star Anise, Thyme, Coriander
Middle Notes
Pipe Tobacco, Suede, Incence
Base Notes
Patchouli, Dark Plum, Sandalwood, Dried Fruits

(Elemi is a tropical-tree resin with a fresh citrusy-spicy scent.) Patchouli scents have been done before, leather's been done and done again, and ditto for the incense, the tobacco, the fresh herbs in the top. Something about the balance of the whole thing, the precision of the composition, is what makes it work for me. That wave of herbs in the top--particularly tarragon, which I adore--quickly gives way to the lush tobacco-suede notes with an earthy but subdued patchouli lurking just underneath, a note which becomes dominant over time. (It's actually reminiscent of DK Men, as if someone had taken that scent, subtracted the gasoline note, and rounded off all the edges. I loved DK Men, but Michael for Men is just a better scent.)

Luca Turin once described a scent as "hairy-chested", and he meant it as a dismissal, but Michael for Men is hairy-chested in the best possible way: it's purely, unapologetically male. (Some women could wear this, of course; there aren't many scents a woman couldn't, in just the way that a woman can wear men's clothing. But make no mistake: there's something indelibly masculine about this scent.)


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