Gold Standard: Fan di Fendi Pour Homme
If you do a search in Basenotes for fragrances that were released in 2012, you will see that they've listed 998, and that's only scents that have made it into their database — there must surely be omissions — and with two months left in the year. Sturgeon's Law states that 90 per cent of everything is crap, and I think he was being generous: I think 99 per cent of everything is crap, so by Sturgeon's reckoning there have been a hundred good-to-great scents launched so far this year, and by mine, perhaps ten. It is impossible for any industry to sustain that level of product launch and have most of the products be any good. Even if every single perfumer were an artist, every company desirous of achieving greatness with every perfume, the economics of the industry guarantee that they will fail, because there is still the marketplace to contend with, and customers don't want avant-garde, they don't want art, with all that that entails: they want to smell nice (a samey, copycat, mass-market idea of nice, not an artist's or an innovator's idea of nice), and they want to pay a reasonable amount of money for the privilege.
So I don't think I can be blamed for giving the side-eye to department-store men's fragrances. Most of them, since Sturgeon's Law holds in perfumery as in every other field of human endeavour, aren't very good, based on the basic template that was established in 1988 with Davidoff Cool Water, which took over the world and was cemented in place over the next decade or so: men must now and henceforth smell freshly showered, clean, airy, watery. It may have seemed new then, but an endless stream of watery-ozonic aromachemicals ensures that there is no end to the theme, and now, a quarter of a century later, it's as played-out as anything can possibly be.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I tried Fan di Fendi Pour Homme and discovered that it's attractive and wearable!
The gold colour might have tipped me off: usually, fresh-aquatic scents are some shade of blue (or, to be daring, pale green, especially if they have green notes), whereas gold usually denotes a warmer, more oriental scent — not universally true (oriental A*Men is blue, fresh Life Essence is yellow-gold), but often a reliable visual shorthand.
Fan di Fendi Pour Homme does start out fresh, but not noxiously so: a little gust of fresh air (as if no men's scent can be without it any more) riding on the coattails of bright citrus notes. Almost immediately afterwards, the main theme is introduced: woods and spices, as masculine as you can get. There's supposedly a "soft leather accord" in the base, but it's not important: mostly you have those gorgeous spices — now sharp-edged, now smooth— dusted over rough wood (supposedly Texas cedar, probably mostly synthetic, not that it matters), for hours and hours.
This is a terrific thing for a man to smell like. There's nothing innovative about it, and if you have a spicy scent or two in your collection (it suggests the discontinued Escada Casual Friday and the still-available Halston Catalyst for Men, among others) you probably don't need this one: but in a market saturated with poor imitations of fresh air and noxious shower-clean soapiness, Fan di Fendi Pour Homme is a welcome change of pace.