One Thousand Scents

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pipe Dream: Perry Ellis 360 Black for Men

If you've ever used one of the bath products in a fragrance line, you've probably noticed that the smell is never quite the same as the original scent. The oil in lotions, body creams, and after-shave balms tend to put a damper on the top notes, weighing down the lighter molecules and allowing the middle and base notes to take precedence. Shower gels and deodorants add their own manufactured aromas to the scent, altering it in unpredictable ways. And soap always smells, yes, soapy.
Perry Ellis 360 Black for Men is almost a terrific scent, but it's hard to tell what it's supposed to smell like from the set I have. There are four products; a deodorant, an after-shave balm, a 100-mL spray bottle of eau de toilette, and a quarter-ounce travel spray of the same EDT, and all four of them smell different.

The deodorant hardly registers at all as a scent. (No, I didn't jam my nose into my own armpit: I spread a little on my arm.) I don't really know what the point of it is, except as a deodorant, which role it fills very well. The after-shave balm, as I expected, completely buries the top notes: for all I know, the manufacturers might not even have bothered to put any in. What it smells like instead is the middle of the scent, which--as I will get to, I promise--is pretty nice.

I'm guessing that the quarter-ounce is the real deal, or closest to what was intended. It starts with a bright freshness that isn't quite the usual clean-ozonic smell we expect from modern perfumery (and, I would imagine, are all righteously sick of). Instead, it has a starched crispness to it: it makes me think of fresh laundry. I don't love it madly, but it's better than it could have been, which is a relief. Alongside it is a batch of prickly spices. The core of the scent is essentially anise-scented pipe tobacco, which sounds as if it could become cloying but which never descends into mere warmth, because the spiciness (and a bit of the freshness) remain well into the middle.

For some reason, the 100-mL bottle smells different. It could be from a (very) different batch, or maybe it's gone subtly off, but it clearly isn't the same as the tiny bottle. The top notes are attenuated so much that they hardly even register; that bright synthetic laundry-detergent is pretty much absent. More or less unimpeded by that artificial freshness, brilliant specks of spice and of anise--that sambuca note--fly up like sparks and then recede into the dark leathery tobacco. This is the one I like.

The notes are, according to the manufacturer and if you care, Cardamom, Sambuca, Barbados Ginger Spice, Nutmeg Extract, Tamarind Vine, Black Basil, Tobacco Leaf, Suede Accord and Liquid Amber. I don't know what half these things smell like (black basil?), but I do know that Perry Ellis 360 Black for Men--the one in the big bottle, anyway--suits me well. It isn't art, but it's pretty good.

The bottle is the usual tall slender column topped by a sphere, all, in this case, in black. The manufacturers have a very bad habit of putting on the bottles in their gift sets stickers reading "NOT FOR INDIVIDUAL SALE", which would be fine if these stickers were removable, but they aren't. I tried scraping one off with a knife after everything else I could think of to try had failed; I ended scraping off some of the black lacquer with which the bottle is coloured, but the label remained firmly attached. Not nice, manufacturers! (If the label doesn't bother you, you can buy the set from the usual online discounters.)



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