Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Royal Secret

It's a good thing I'm not posting this review on a Basenotes.net thread.  I'd have to slog through endless whining about how Royal Secret has been destroyed through reformulation, that it's a pale shadow of its former self, that it sucks now, that it's a disgrace to humanity, and all other kinds of baloney.  I am well aware that this was originally a Germaine Monteil perfume from 1935, and that the version I'm reviewing here, released and reformulated by Five Star Fragrances, is not as luxurious or rich as it once was.  I know there's a big difference between them.  So what?  This new version suits me just fine.  What do I give a shit? 

This is a blog about men's fragrances, so I'm judging Royal Secret on the basis of whether or not a man might enjoy wearing it.  It's marketed as a fragrance for women, but you could have fooled me if I didn't know any better.  This is a superb, French styled, extremely old-school scent that falls somewhere between a classic chypre and an oriental.  Of course it would smell great on a woman, but I think it makes a much better men's fragrance, that is, for those who love classic scents.  My wife doesn't wear it, so I guess I'm clear to wear it around my household.  When I wear it, it never crosses my mind that this is a woman's fragrance.  It smells pretty damn masculine to me.  It's a hundred times better than the mediocre Royal Secret For Men.

Royal Secret is usually described as an oriental.  With it's evil looking dark brown juice, it certainly looks the part.  However, Royal Secret strikes me equally as a chypre, and that's because the fragrance shifts off and on smelling like both throughout its life on your skin.  The opening is awesome - dark, super strong, bitter, woody and heavy, just like a great old school leather chypre; fans of Guerlain's Derby will surely enjoy this opening.  After about a half hour, the scent becomes soft, powdery, and somewhat sweet - that's the oriental side of Royal Secret.  It has a light effervescent and caramellic smell similar to Coca Cola.  It smells a lot like Estee Lauder's Youth Dew, a perfume I love.

Right when you're thinking you're wearing an old guard oriental, the scent starts smelling lighter, breezier, airier and bitter, just like a great chypre would.  This is the part of Royal Secret I enjoy most, and is the most long lasting.  It smells dry and dusty, with a pale green, mossy bitterness that makes it smell a lot like the drydown of Chanel Pour Monsieur, one of my favorite fragrances.  Labdanum, an essential ingredient for a chypre, is not listed as a note in Royal Secret, but it sure smells like there's labdanum in it.

Royal Secret is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.  I get Derby in the beginning, and then for the next eleven or twelve hours I get whiffs of Youth Dew and Chanel Pour Monsieur, constantly shifting in and out for the duration.   Chanel Pour Monsieur is notorious for having terrible longevity, and that's the beauty of Royal Secret for me - it's like wearing a version of Chanel Pour Monsieur that lasts for twelve hours.  How awesome is that? 

The only reason I don't give this a perfect score is because you can tell that it doesn't exactly contain the best quality materials.  Unfortunately Five Star Fragrances Co. is infamous among perfume enthusiasts for reformulating classics using cheap materials.  I guess I can't complain, considering a 100 ml. bottle only costs about $20 U.S.  Although Royal Secret doesn't smell cheap, its smells like its individual ingredients are.  But at the end of the day, does it really matter if the fragrance smells good?  I say no.  Whoever reformulated this did a good job of creating an elegant (though not what I'd call luxurious) perfume with inexpensive materials.

Royal Secret will be right at home sitting next to your bottles of Capucci Pour Homme, Ho Hang, Moustache and Chanel Pour Monsieur on your dresser.  Both thumbs all the way up!

MY RATING:  8.5/10

Fragrance House:  Germaine Monteil, Five Star Fragrances


  1. Dior Homme, Kouros, Fahrenheit, etc...they've all been bashed on basenotes because of a reformulation and it's annoying since I think they are still great. Sometimes I wonder if people just want to make others think they are missing out on something for some reason.

  2. I largely agree Stew. Most reformulations are subtly different and unless you know the fragrance inside out it's rarely of any consequence. The only time I've found it an issue is when they take something great and wreck it (ie: D&G Pour Homme) or when you've a fragrance which you absolutely love and the element of it which sets it apart for you is changed or removed. There's a couple of frags which are like this for me. One is Azzaro Acteur, the new version lacks the heady, boozy quality which made me go out and buy a 100ml bottle after owning a mini-bottle, and the other is Paco Rabanne - the latest version is undoubtedly Paco in smell but is just lacking in that indefinable something which made it not good but GREAT...!

  3. A lot of those people (not all) are just showing off. I've actually read posts by some people who say stuff like, "If I'm trying a new fragrance, I won't even bother trying the current version because I know I won't like it. I just go right for the vintage juice." That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, because it automatically shows that those people are not judging a fragrance with an open mind. I'll agree that a lot of reformulations are inferior to earlier versions (hello Santos de Cartier and Nicole Miller For Men!), but to automatically assume that a reformulation is going to be inferior is stupid.

    I'd love to do a blindfold test with one of these guys, with a fragrance they've never tried before, and see if they can tell which version is which.

  4. I'm thinking about blind buying this, hollywood, mustang, and taxi since they're all so cheap and that will get me to the free shipping mark, ha. If I do, I'm done buying for this year and probably next.

    1. Definitely post your thoughts on them after you give them a try. I like Taxi more every time I wear it.

  5. I definitely will. Off topic, but I might have to get this since it made me laugh so hard, no idea what it is... http://www.fragrancex.com/products/_cid_Cologne-am-lid_R-am-sid_MPPEDT34__products.html

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