One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Afterwards: Perry Ellis 360 Red Men


The Perry Ellis scents are a real mixed bag. Some of them are really good; some of them are dreadful. Most of them, as you might expect, are middle-of-the-road: commercial scents which aren't intended to express a point of view or an artistic statement, but to appeal to as many people as possible and make a lot of money.

Here are the notes.

Top: Italian bergamot, lime zest, mandarin, ruby orange, nutmeg, red cinnamon, clove bud. Middle: parsley, coriander seeds, lavender. Base: Mysore sandalwood, red cedar, vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss, musk.

The top is a jumble of citrus notes, permeated--polluted, really--with something like calone, a note which is in just about everything nowadays: it gives that ozonic seaside smell that is the universal (in North American fragrances, anyway) signifier for "fresh". Whenever you smell a men's deodorant with a name containing "thunder", "rain", "wild", or anything of the sort, whenever you read of a new fragrance that's "clean", "fresh", "outdoorsy", you're probably getting a snootful of calone or something homologous to it.

Do they have to put it in everything? It seems like ninety per cent of new men's fragrances these days--no, make that ninety-five--are fresh scents (just as the huge majority of women's scents, even from established houses that should know better, are fruity florals aimed at a very young market). It's crazy. There are hundreds and hundreds of them on the market right now; is it really impossible to sell people a good oriental, a well-thought-out pure floral, a subtle chypre? Are people such sheep that everyone has to smell exactly like everyone else?

I guess I'm done ranting.

Once you get past the top of 360 Red, you have a not-bad scent. The synthetic freshness lingers longer that I'd want it to (I'd rather it weren't there at all, of course), but a sneaky warmth begins to emerge as the ozonated citrus notes stop screaming at you. It's a warm, herbaceous scent grounded in lavender, and it smells masculine without being aggressive; it's stripped-down, almost minimalist. The base notes sound like a powerhouse, but they're surprisingly understated; nothing makes a dramatic entrance or dominates the endgame. Just more subtle masculinity, really very pleasant. It's a shame about that horrible top note, which was almost enough to turn me away from the scent altogether.

The bottle, of course, is genius. The original women's 360, launched way back in 1993, was packaged in two bottles: the perfume was in a glass sphere (it was divided around the equator, with the top half uncovering a stopper), and the eau de toilette was in a tall glass cylinder with a metal collar and a spherical cap. Yeah, it's unavoidably phallic, but it's also an icon of simplicity, and it pretty much became the house bottle for both men's and women's scents, used not only for the ever-expanding 360 line but also for the extraordinary Perry Ellis Reserve. In the 360 line (which now encompasses the original scent plus Red, White, Black, Blue, and finally, because they evidently ran out of colours, Pure), the men's bottles have a silver collar, the women's gold. The 360 Red bottle is, predictably, red glass, a colour not usually used in men's scents, and it's gorgeous and striking.

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