One Thousand Scents

Friday, February 29, 2008

Cutting Edge

One of the complaints that I and thousands of other fragrance hounds have is that the bottle sizes are just too big. I never buy anything larger than 50 mL, because I'll never use even that much. Some scents, particularly limited editions, come only in 100-mL bottles (like the recent Eau Sauvage Fraicheur Cuir, which I would have bought if it had been available in 50 mL), and others still (the Marc Jacobs splashes, the Chanel Exclusifs) are available only in 200-mL bottles. Obviously the marketing people have their reasons: splashes are meant to be used generously so you'll in theory use them up pretty quickly, and a larger bottle brings the price up to the point that the scent seems more exclusive and unattainable.

What we fanatics crave is the smaller bottle. If everything came in half-ounce (15-mL bottles), we'd buy even more than we do now. If I have the choice between a 50-mL and a 100-mL bottle, I might not buy either, but if I have access to smaller bottles, then my resistance is reduced to nearly nothing. Even if they're available only as a set, I'll still do the calculus; "I already have that one, and I don't want that one, but I can trade away those, and there are still four more in the set that I want, so it's totally worth it!"

And better: when I use up the small bottle, I might buy a bigger version just so I never run out, and when presented with an array of scents in a set, I might find one that I'd never tried and subsequently fall in love with. I get what I want, the manufacturers get what they want, and everybody's happy. I'm sure there's some complex set of reasons that more of them don't do this, but they should.

Everybody knows what Axe (or Lynx, in Europe) is, right? It's that loud, stinky "body spray" deodorant aimed at young men. (They don't spray in single, controlled bursts like most scents nowadays; they're meant to be something you cover yourself in, so they keep spraying as long as you hold down the nozzle.) The advertising is horrific: it generally shows a young gent liberally coating himself with the stuff, and then women losing control of their free will and flinging themselves at him, or attacking one another to get to him.

The Axe people have created a wonderful bit of packaging. The fragrances originally came in a 100-mL spray, which is unsurprising, considering the quantity they seemed to be recommending you use. Not very portable, though, so they've come up with tiny 5-mL canisters called Bullets ("Axe Bullets: for the man who needs a lot of weaponry"), with a locking mechanism on the spray cap so you don't accidentally discharge it into your gym bag or knapsack. There are four fragrances available in this format (Clix, Essence, Phoenix, and Vice), and they're sold as sets of four, either all the same scent or one of each, in a little plastic cylinder. It is exceptionally clever; the per-volume price is much higher than the regular packaging, so the manufacturer is happy, and the customer gets to try a bunch of different scents, so he's happy, although those around him might not be.

Do you even want to know what they smell like? Can you even believe that I smelled all of them--that I put them on my skin--so I can tell you? I figure, well, even cheap perfumery is still perfumery. These scents, noxious though they might be, didn't fall out of the heavens; someone had to create them, and cheap isn't necessarily bad.

Clix: waterlogged red fruit and musk. Essence: cheap candy, artificial apple flavouring, plastic greenery. Vice: a dreadful clutter of unidentifiable sharp synthetics and herbs and...things. All three of them: very short-lived, an hour or two.

Amazingly, Phoenix is rather nice. I can't believe I'm saying it, but there it is. The opening is kind of rackety; a big blare of citrus, and some herbal notes, strangely heavy and thick (the word that came to mind was "meaty", although that's not quite it--but it's close). I suspect it's so loud because that's what the user of this sort of thing expects. It goes away soon, thank goodness, and the middle of the scent is a pleasant though unexceptional fougére: if it was applied with some restraint, you wouldn't at all mind smelling on someone. (It's soft and a little fresh, still herbal but with a floral undertone.) The product isn't designed to be applied with restraint, so you'd probably find it overwhelming. Still, this could be the gateway drug scent that the olfactorily inclined young man needs to propel him into the more sophisticated of adult fragrances, the kind of thing you don't need to be embarrassed about naming if someone asks you how come you smell so good.


  • Ha! I had an Irish SO who loved using Lynx shower gels. I bought him the Phoenix variety, as that was the one I actually liked. Glad to know I'm not alone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 AM  

  • I used Phoenix a year or two ago; I think it after awhile it suddenly started making me sneeze. And yes, I have had some people come up in the summertime (only time I'd use them) and ask "that smells pretty good, what is it" when I used it. There were a couple other good ones out of (10? 20?) scents but I don't recall which ones...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:41 AM  

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