One Thousand Scents

Friday, March 07, 2008

Small Blessings: Polo Explorer

I said recently that a particular scent changes its character when you apply a tiny amount of it, and in fact that's the case with more than a few scents. Sometimes you'll read that a particular fragrance smells a certain way if you dab it on, but you really only get the full effect if you spray it, and I think that's very true, not just because the spray gives you more, but because it opens the scent out--it disperses the notes, particularly the top and topmost middle notes, giving them a much bigger effect.

When I opened my little sample bottle of Polo Explorer (a whole quarter ounce!), I dabbed on a tiny amount, just in case I hated it. The notes are listed as

top notes of mandarin oil and bergamot, middle notes of waterfall accord, coriander spice and rugged leather, and bottom notes of mahogany wood, sandalwood, mate and amber

with the ad writers telling us that the scent

combines the freshness of a Hawaiian waterfall with the smokiness of Australian sandalwood and the warmth of amber from the North Sea

I was prepared not to like it, but a few sniffs had me convinced that, on the contrary, I liked it quite a bit: the obvious-fresh quality that I'm so tired of in modern men's perfumery was offset by a creamy lushness in the middle notes, which I'm guessing was a particular sort of sandalwood that sometimes has a creamy soapiness about it. (It suggests the pudding/spice/soap sandalwood of Molecule 01, and in fact I'm fairly sure that the sandalwood scent in Polo Explorer is just raw Iso E Super, the scent molecule that's the sole component of Molecule 01.) It was a surprising combination, and the fact is that at first, I had to concede that Polo Explorer is kind of nice. There! I said it! It's nice!

In small doses, anyway. Unfortunately, in larger quantities, the subtler aspects of the scent are pretty much drowned in a lagoon of fresh aquatic notes, and that's all I get from it. I tried a bigger dose, and then later in the day I tried even more, really glugging it on, and both times, what I got was a very standard men's fresh fougere, and that's about the most boring thing I can think of. It doesn't age well on the skin in large concentrations, either: it just kind of wears out its welcome. It is emphatically not the sort of thing I would ever wear, or buy.

But instead of tossing the bottle--which is also, alas, pretty boring, a squat variant of the house bottle done up in dark khaki--I'm going to hang onto it and use it sparingly, a drop at a time, not because I need to treasure it but because it's better that way.


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