One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Balancing Act: Allure Homme by Chanel


The publicity material for Chanel's Allure, the women's version, made much of the fact that it didn't develop as a classic scent does but instead showed six equal facets, like a jewel. Big deal, I thought; they've reinvented the linear scent. It turns out that what they meant wasn't that it was six accords equally balanced throughout the scent's life, but that there were six accords that came and went in equal measure. It's still more or less a linear scent, but a very complex one. Their men's version, Allure Homme, is structured somewhat more classically; and yet despite this, the composition, like the women's, isn't just the usual top-middle-base, and is altogether more interesting because of it.

One of the first things I smell in Allure Homme, after the usual fleeting shiver of citrus notes, is leather. It's not even listed in the fragrance's notes, and it certainly isn't as intense as the leatheriness of Chanel's Antaeus, but it's there: not the warm sugary leather of Stetson, but something much drier. It's a sexy, manly smell, probably an inevitable component of anything that would dare to call itself Allure.

That leathery dryness doesn't last, though. A spicy note of pepper, powerfully warm but not harsh or aggressive, soon barrels up through the top notes, taking with it a hint of vanillic sweetness which increases in intensity as the scent develops. The middle note never really settles down: the base notes just keep getting warmer and sweeter, with their quantities of woods (mostly sandalwood) and balsams (labdanum and the vanilla-laced tonka bean) sharpened a little with earthy patchouli and vetivert. It never has a chance to get cloying, despite the balsamic warmth, because there's so much else going on in the base notes. As I wrote about before, sometimes it's amusing when individual notes jump out at you before fading away again, and Allure Homme has this in spades: a little swirl of patchouli came out of nowhere at me this afternoon, when I'd almost forgotten I was wearing the stuff, and then a bit later a sudden jolt of pencil-sharpener cedar. It's the perpetual element of surprise that makes Allure Homme a winner.

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