JHL is a fragrance lover's fragrance, no doubt. This is not the kind of cologne you'd want to buy for your Dad on his birthday, as his introduction into the world of fragrance. He's likely to bap you outside the head after one sniff. As for you, reader, I would certainly not recommend buying a bottle of JHL without sampling it first, especially if you're new to this whole fragrance thing.
JHL is a harsh scent. It's been called a "perfume for old ladies" by those who hate it, and that's probably because it does smell similar to two classic women's perfumes, Cinnabar and Opium. It is spicy to the extreme, and it doesn't change much during the long time it's on your skin.
To those who say JHL is for grandmas, I say bullshit. This sucker is a powerhouse like no other, and the fact that it shares similarities to one of the most daring women's fragrances of the 80s, Opium, makes it even more ballsy.
I don't find JHL feminine smelling at all. What JHL delivers is a spice-loaded kick in the ass, courtesy of cinnamon, pepper, clove and plenty of dry wood notes like fir and sandalwood. Added to that are heavy doses of carnation and patchouli to make your nose bleed even more. JHL is classified as an oriental scent, but its spiciness overwhelms any sweetness it could have had from the amber and vanilla that is supposedly in this. I sure can't smell them.
JHL is much woodier and drier than either Cinnabar or Opium, and that's why I find it to be a very masculine smelling scent. Don't expect much in terms of top notes, heart notes or a drydown with JHL. It smells pretty much the same from start to finish. I'd describe JHL as a fragrance that calms down over time, rather than evolve.
It's important to mention that JHL was reissued a couple of years ago. If Estee Lauder reformulated JHL, they did a great job because I smell little to no difference from the original version of JHL. The big difference between the two versions, however, is the atomizer. The earlier version of JHL had an atomizer that sprayed a pretty big dose onto your skin, and I think that may have made JHL too overwhelming for a lot of people. The new atomizer for JHL (pictured above) sprays out dinky little spritzes, which will make the fragrance smell a lot less potent if sprayed conservatively, and thus a lot more wearable for a lot of people. I'll bet Lauder used a more conservative atomizer in the reissue hoping that it might make JHL a bit more easy to wear for a lot of people. For once, JHL can be now worn in a relatively restrained and discreet way. So, if you're looking for the room-killing power of the old JHL, you'll need to spray more on.
New atomizer or not, JHL is still unlikely to appeal to the masses. It's too strong and old-school in style, as if it's spitting a loogie into the face of the fragrance industry of the past 15 years.
Of course, "too strong" and "too old school" are not words in my vocabulary when it comes to my own tastes. I love this juice.
MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Aramis/Estee Lauder