Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Other Fifteen: My Top 25

Putting this article together has been a big task, and one I've been procrastinating on for about a year, but the time has finally come for me to bite the bullet and just get the job done. Several months ago I wrote an article about my Top Ten favorite fragrances, and in it I made note of the fact that I have a Top 25 list as well. This article deals with the other fifteen.

You may wonder why I have a list of 25, and not 20, 50 or some other number. I've always figured that some day I'm probably going to be forced to pare down my collection (which is currently at about 400 bottles) significantly. If that ever happens, I think knocking it down to 25 fragrances is a reasonable number. This was my mindset when I compiled this list a few years ago: I adore these 25 scents so much that I feel could be satisfied if I were only allowed to wear these 25 fragrances, and no other, for the rest of my life.

Like my Top Ten list, this list has remained pretty static during the past several years. There have been a few scents that I've removed over the years - Equipage, Agua Lavanda, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Guerlain Vetiver and Monsieur Givenchy - but I did so simply because I don't wear them much anymore, not because I love them less. Other than that, it's been a consistent list. All of the fragrances on the list are ones I've been wearing for years, and all of them are fragrances that I'm so comfortable wearing, I feel like they're part of me when I do.

Enough talking now, so here they are, in no particular order:

Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene)

Though this list is not in any order of preference, Grey Flannel is the exception. I came so close to putting this in my Top Ten, it deserves to be #11. Plus I wear it more often than most of the other scents on this list.

I have good memories associated with this one. When my wife and I were first dating back in the early Nineties, she tried to get me into wearing cologne on a regular basis. Her first gift to me ever was a bottle of Eau Sauvage, but before that, she had me sample a bunch of fragrances, and Grey Flannel was one. I liked it because it actually smelled masculine, compared to the others she had me try, which were wimpy aquatic and sporty fragrances (she didn't like them either, but thought I should try out what was hip at the time). I remember saying to her that Grey Flannel smelled like money, and that it was the smell of a real man. As for the others, I remember asking her, "Are you sure these are for men?"

I still love Grey Flannel, and in fact I wear it more now than ever before. Like most on my favorites list, it's a fragrance I've been able to grow with. It's timeless.

Tabac Original Eau de Cologne (Maurer & Wirtz)

Even my six year-old daughter likes wearing this on occasion, so how can I not love it? Tabac Original may not smell like a tobacco leaf or a cigar, but it has a brown, hazy warmth that brings to mind smoking jackets, pipe tobacco, dinner clubs, leather chairs, and all things associated with smoking and being a mature man of the world.

Like Pino Silvestre, Tabac is another classic gem that sells for chump change, so there's no reason not to at least have a 50 ml. bottle in the wardrobe.

Moods (Krizia)

Moods Uomo was God's gift to the world in 1989. It came into this world at the twilight of the 80's Powerhouse Fragrance, a genre that would soon die a painful death at the hands of wimpy aquatic scents.

Moods represents Old School Power at its finest. Its velvety gold blend of rose, tobacco, patchouli and oakmoss has never been matched, and its beauty is from another world. However, don't let its silkiness mislead you into thinking this isn't a powerful scent. Moods has a lot of testicular swagger, which it gets from plenty of macho patchouli and oakmoss. It's just as suitable to wear with gold chains and an unbuttoned shirt as it is with a suit and tie.

I don't wear Moods all that often, but not because I don't love it. I'm selective about when I wear it because I never want to tire of it.

Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin (Lolita Lempicka)


Like A*Men, Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin represents an anomaly in my tastes. It's a gourmand oriental fragrance and it's sweet, which are two qualities I typically don't enjoy. It's also not particularly masculine smelling.

Lolita lights my fire because it creates a magically dreamy, purple haze of spicy scent all around me when I wear it. Its showcase note is anise, a love/hate smell that I happen to love, and it maintains that scent for hours and hours. Lolita is totally enchanting in every way, and no other fragrance gives me that same feeling.

I expect oriental fragrances to smell exotic, but few of them really do. Lolita Lempicka Au Masculine nails it perfectly.

Giorgio For Men (Giorgio Beverly Hills)

Now here is one of those fragrances that NO ONE will dispute is a real powerhouse. It was built to satisfy the true powerhead: loads of oakmoss and patchouli, uber-manly aroma, 24-hour longevity, and the sillage of a nuclear holocaust. Any more than four or five sprays, and Giorgio For Men truly will announce your presence about fifty feet before you walk into a room.

Giorgio For Men is a burly green oakmoss bomb smoothed out with honey and patchouli. It's silky and beautiful, with one of the best aromas in muscle frag history. The main reason I don't wear this every day is because I think I'd have perpetual olfactory fatigue after wearing this for a week.

Aramis (Aramis)

I've been wearing Aramis since the time I started getting interested in fragrances, so there's no way I can notinclude it in my Top 25. It's one of the first fragrances I ever bought for myself (Bijan Men was the first), and I've loved it ever since. I was 24 when I bought my first bottle, still studying to become a lawyer, and I remember thinking that buying and wearing Aramis was a sign that I was really becoming an adult. The fact that it didn't smell anything like the cutie pie sport fragrances that were trendy at the time certainly helped.

Aramis came out in the Sixties, yet it still smells unique today. Sure, there have been a ton of leathery chypres released over the years, but none of them smell quite like Aramis. It's complex too - at times it smells bitter, other times leathery, other times mossy, and other times aromatic - yet I can recognize it instantly.

I don't wear Aramis as much as I used to, but I know it will be back in my regular rotation again soon. It's so familiar and reassuring to me, sort of like comfort food, I don't think I can ever give this one up. Why else would I own three bottles of it now?

Givenchy Gentleman (Givenchy)

This has to be, without a doubt, the most patchouli-intensive mainstream fragrance for men ever made. A lot of guys have a hang-up about patchouli, mainly due to its association with hippies and potheads, so it took real balls for Givenchy to release a so-called "gentleman's fragrance" to the general public containing this much patchouli. They could have easily named this "Givenchy Patchouli Pour Homme".

I am aware of two formulations of Givenchy Gentleman: the original 1974 formula and the reformulated version being sold currently. I own and wear both, and although I love them equally, there are differences. The original is a superstrong, crude powerhouse, with a particularly loud, skanky civet note in the base. The current reformulated Gentleman is more refined and smooth, with a little less civet, and just as much leather as patchouli. I think the new version is a slightly better fragrance because it's better blended, but the original version has a brashness that I love.

Either way, you're getting one of the best patchouli or leather fragrances for men ever made.

Jaipur Homme (Boucheron)

Jaipur Homme is my favorite oriental fragrance for men. In fact, I think it's the best men's oriental scent of all time, period. It's very powdery, which gives it an old classic feel, but it's also got a strong, exotic spiciness that puts it firmly into the oriental category. Think Habit Rouge blended with Jacomo de Jacomo, and you've got an idea of what this is like.

Much debate is made about which version is better, the eau de toilette or the eau de parfum. I own bottles of both, and I think the difference is negligible. I give a slight edge to the EDP because it's a tad more complex and rich, but the EDT is no slouch at all. They both last a long time, project strongly, and deliver the same unforgettable Jaipur experience.

Polo (Ralph Lauren)

I've described Azzaro Pour Homme, Moods and Pino Silvestre as being, for me, perfect fragrances. Polo is another perfect fragrance.

Provided you don't bathe in it, Polo is suitable for any occasion, any time of year. Wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, and it comes off as a great casual scent. Wear it with a suit and tie, and it will give you an air of authority. Wear it with a tux, and you'll look and smell like a million bucks. Like Aramis, it's a complex scent, smelling green, dry, sweet, aromatic, grassy, coniferous and mossy at different times of the day. No matter what facet I detect and when, Polo always smells great. I consider it to be one of the greatest men's fragrances of all time.

Though it's a powerhouse, Polo is one of the few I don't like to wear loudly. It only smells right when you put it on in small to moderate doses. Too much, and it smells cheap and obnoxious. With just the right amount, it smells regal.

Agua Lavanda (Antonio Puig)

Agua Lavanda is my favorite lavender fragrance. It's so honest and pure - nothing hides the rawness of the lavender here. The lavender smells crisp and dry, just the way I love it. The careful addition of oakmoss gives a green tint to the lavender and adds to its earthiness. A touch of tonka bean in the base notes technically make Agua Lavanda a fougere, but the lavender is always the showcase.

Staying power and sillage are of course weak, which is typical of lavenders, but this is Nature in a bottle. I wear this almost every day in the summer.

Bel Ami (Hermes)

Writing this article made me realize that I rarely talk about this fragrance, which is strange, since it's been one of my favorites for years. Bel Ami used to be a big fat leathery powerhouse when it came out in 1986, and was reformulated a few years ago. It's not quite a powerhouse anymore, and it's a bit less leathery than it used to be, but it's still great. It still comes off as a classic French take on the 80's powerhouse genre, though, and that's what I love about it.

Bel Ami is still an extremely masculine scent, very European in style. I love how it piles on heavy aromatic notes like cinnamon, patchouli, anise, basil and sage on top of leather. It balances out perfectly, and it smells warmer and richer the longer you wear it.

This is one of those fragrances where you get awesome warm whiffs rising up from under your shirt throughout the day. It's like aromatherapy for me.

Lagerfeld Classic
(Karl Lagerfeld)

This is my latest addition to the list. I've had a bottle for about 13 years, but I haven't gotten to truly love this until the past year or so. It's very powdery and old school, so I needed a few gray hairs on my head before I could really appreciate and feel comfortable wearing it.

Though I love every stage of Lagerfeld, the drydown is what makes it one of my favorite fragrances. It's dark, spicy and musky, and it has a tart skankiness in the base that I often associate with classic French chypres, not orientals like Lagerfeld.

I find myself wearing this more than I ever expected when I first tried it thirteen years ago, and I see myself wearing it for many years to come.

Lapidus Pour Homme (Ted Lapidus)

Do I really need to say anything more about this that I haven't already said? You all know by now that Lapidus Pour Homme is one of the strongest, most brutal powerhouse fragrances ever made. Quiche eaters and wimps run for cover when you walk in wearing this macho scent.

Lapidus isn't great simply because it's strong. It also smells great (see my review for details). I love this juice.

Pino Silvestre (Mavive)

I love pine scents and I love dry green herbal scents, and Pino fits into both categories perfectly. It's a classic herbal fougere with a breezy green scent that smells like a summer wind blowing through a forest. I can't not love Pino *Silvestre.

If you love evergreen and herbal fragrances but haven't yet tried Pino, what the hell are you waiting for?

Knize Ten (Knize)
I'm sorry to be loading this article up with superlatives, but these perfumes are in my Top 25 for a reason. I love leather fragrances, and Knize Ten is easily the best leather fragrance I've ever smelled, and I've smelled a lot of them.

It smells like the tan-colored leather interior of a luxury car, like a Bentley or a Rolls. It's the perfect culmination of spicy and leathery, ever evolving as you wear it, always getting better the longer you have it on, yet never losing its leathery scent. Its longevity and sillage are shocking in their strength, yet this isn't really a powerhouse fragrance. This is a gentleman's scent (as the label on the bottle states), not a testosterone supplement.

Knize Ten's price tag may seem steep at first ($110 U.S. for 120 ml.), but when you consider how strong and how good it is, it's actually quite a bargain.

So there you have it, my Top 25. This is always a difficult list to compile, since there are so many fragrances that could feasibly make the list. If you're interested, here's a list of runners up of some that almost made it, all of which used to be on the list:

Monsieur de Givenchy
Acqua di Selva
Worth Pour Homme
Krizia Uomo
Guerlain Vetiver


  1. Lolita L. and Lagerfeld are next on my To Buy List. You hit the nail on the head with Giorgio BH! I wore the original juice back in the 80's and that stuff resisted laundry detergent. Givenchy Gentleman and Boucheron Jaipur are both in my top 10. I have both the EDT and the EDP of Jaipur. Great stuff. I also have Boucheron PH EDP and love it. I'm jonesing for a bottle of Moods but the prices are simply beyond my budget right now. Maybe the lottery will spin my way soon. . .?


    1. I agree, Boucheron is also a great fragrance. Several years ago, it was easily one of my favorites. I've only owned the EDT, and when I tried the EDP a few years ago I didn't like it. I do want to try the EDP out again, though.

  2. definitely an old school guy, there is a youtube reviewer that I like w/ the user name Robes08 (real name Marc)..he just put up his PERSONAL top 100 designer bottles ever, you can tell the difference between generations. However, I do think about 3 or 4 of your favorites were in there.

    1. I've seen Robes08's video reviews, and I like his videos a lot. He has a very personable, down to earth style. However, his tastes and mine seem pretty far apart. It's not so much that I don't like the frags he likes, but that he's a lot more hip and on top of what's new these days than I am.

  3. Nice list, Shamu, and not just because I agree with almost all of it. I'm glad to see both Aramis and Grey Flannel in there, since they both get lambasted by mainstream (read young and trendy) reviewers all the time. I don't understand the closeminded approach that so many have toward anything that is not brand new, so it is refreshing that you base your list on merit and not just on what is popular and contemporary.

    1. I'm sure a lot of guys do care about rockin' the hippest, newest frag. However, I also think a lot of guys simply don't like the smell of things like Aramis and Quorum, for example. Those frags you and I love are simply so different from what people are used to smelling today, I think a lot of the "young and trendy" dudes don't even know how to react when they smell something like Lagerfeld, other than saying, "Aw man, that's an old man's cologne!!!!!"

    2. Well said Shamu1. I think that also what we like and don't like may be (at least partially) a function (there are of course many factors) of the time that we were born/brought up in. The younger twenty-something crowd now has been spoon-fed the dross (with very few exceptions)that has been churned out over the last several years, i.e., fresh, aqua, cutie-pie. There is no doubt that this at least has played some part in shaping their olfactory sense. Although I am in my forties, I did not take this hobby of fragrance as seriously as until the last 3 or 4 years. My wife kinda got me interested in fragrance beyond the most basic. Like most neophytes, I didn't know much about it never mind notes, ingredients. Therefore, I found myself groping blindly. With my father using Old Spice and my older brother using Paco Rabanne PH (late 70s/early 80s)as well as a good friend of my brother using Skin Bracer, I grew up with some memory of these which aren't bad though these were fleeting since they were so long ago. To make matters worse, my journey started with the current trendy stuff on the shelves now. Instinctively, I began to question whether I would want to wear such oversweetened, weak stuff that they were pushing at the local Douglas/Sephora. One thing that I immediately noticed that some of this stuff would only last about 20 minutes before evaporating, I mean..come on! Next, came the perusing of the forums and the often conflicting info concerning certain frags. For example, the 'controversial' KOUROS described with such disparity...OMG...something to fear, shun, better watch out, scream...old man etc... and yet, fabulous, beautiful, unique was the other side of the discussion. I decided on a whim to buy a bottle of Kouros. I will admit that when I tried it, it was not an instant love affair...I was actually nauseated. What did one expect? Being most recently influenced by Acqua Di Gio, DG light blue nose had been wimpified by all the new crap! Luckily, I did give it time and I learned how to judiciously apply a powerhouse like Kouros. It hit me like a ton of fabulous this is...they weren't lying at all when they said, 'Masterpiece.' Thereafter, I learned that I should always try something (especially, 'controversial') myself rather than follow hearsay on forums. Today, I value Kouros so much that I shudder to think that they could discontinue it. In addition, I owe much thanks to your blog that my range has also expanded to other classics.
      More on the topic of the new crowd...just like my former self, I submit that most of them don't even know what they like or don't despite perhaps, their age. Case in point, my wife's older sister who is in her forties as well. Her husband wanted to try Kouros, so I let him sample it. Initially, he was on the fence...his wife was almost ready to keel over from shock! Hahhah! Having been fostered on all the flowery junk that she wears and her husband using the latest fads on the shelf, they were unprepared for something as assertive/different as Kouros. She even said that it 'stinks.' Fast forward 5 months to winter holidays...I sprayed Kouros 1 spray from a 10 inch distance on each side of my neck and I went to join the party. Well, I approached my sister-in-law to greet her with a kiss and she remarked geniunely, 'Wow...what is that beautiful frag ?' as she dug her nose repeatedly into the side of my neck, her eyes rolling about in almost erotic ecstasy while embracing me. Can you imagine her surprise when I revealed that it was Kouros? The scent that she reviled several months prior. Go Figure as they say in modern parlance. Now, her husband wears it religiously... hahah...much to his wife's chagrin. I asked him why she at one point she hated it, then loved it and now isn't quite crazy about it. Even he had no answer for this. I can only conclude that many people don't even know what they want, like or hate.

    3. Take it as a compliment that your sister in law loved Kouros on you but doesn't like it on her husband. Maybe he doesn't have what it takes to wear a strong manly 80s scent like Kouros.

    4. All of this illustrates what I (and others) lament: a kind of a priori judgment. Shamu is a great example of someone who admits to certain preferences, yet doesn't hesitate to change his mind or give some supposed aquatic wimp-fest a real chance. This blog is full of positive reviews for fragrances that Shamu either (a) didn't like at first or (b) are from a genre that he tends to avoid but gave a shot. Sure, we all have likes and dislikes but are we judging after we smell/hear/read or before? I admit that I'm probably in a very small minority; although born in '68 there is very little in my cultural rotation, so to speak, that is contemporary with my "time", i.e, I prefer Sinatra and Thelonious Monk and Chuck Berry to Van Halen, Celine Dion and Snoop Dogg. I prefer '40s films noir to modern CGI fantasy films. And I've approached things this way since my childhood.

      Like any body of work (music, literature, films, cars, etc) the fascinating and interesting thing is the difference of opinion. We often learn more from opposition than from approbation. It'd be great of things like this blog give people a chance to expand their horizons.

  4. Good work shamu! These are all classics for a reason - they're amazing, unique fragrances which have stood the test of time. I'm wearing Lapidus PH in celebration of the publication of this excellent list!!

    1. I wore Lapidus yesterday. Jesus, although I love the stuff, sometimes I wonder if it really belongs on my favorites list. It's so f*^$king powerful, I can't wear it more than about once every couple of weeks. Can't resist the smell, though, so on the list it stays.

  5. Well, thanks to you, I can in the meantime call 10 out of those 25 my own as well.Funny though, that Old Spice is nowhere to be found among your 25 favorites....

    1. I had a feeling someone would ask that question. I do love Old Spice, but you have to remember that I've now got over 400 different bottles of cologne, and have owned probably another 100-200 in the past. So that a LOT of freakin' fragrances for Old Spice to compete with!

      If I did a Top 40, though, Old Spice would be on that list.

  6. Do note, Shamu, Giorgio For Men was reformulated in 2o12 -- and its current incarnation is a hideously screechy chemical mess with terrible longevity. Regards.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, because I had no idea. I do remember when Elizabeth Arden bought the license a few years ago and re-released it. Most people thought it was just as good as it originally was. The bottles I own were purchased about four years ago.

      Is there any way of telling from the box or packaging which is the newest version?

    2. Sadly, there is not. Apart from the horrible colour of the juice which is now neon green - and has got nothing to do with the lovely golden-hued liquid you know so well.

    3. But the stuff I'm talking about and reviewing here is the neon green juice, like in the picture above. I've never tried the original version, which was gold like you said.

  7. I bought a bottle of Giorgio a couple of weeks back. I'm not sure I'd call it a hideously screechy chemical mess, but it may very well not smell as it used to. Although there are obviously different notes involved, I felt a certain amount of overlap with Hammam Bouquet (which is odd, as the notes are apparently completely different).

    The main thing that I can speak to is the matter of longevity, which doesn't match the descriptions I've heard of either the vintage EDT or the earlier reformulation. At least on my skin, it opens strongly but then fairly rapidly goes to a skin scent of reasonable longevity. I've asked people if they can smell me, maybe an hour after I've put the stuff on - nothing, unless they get in close. I've upped the dosage to try to get some more longevity out of it and nobody has turned green and dropped dead.

    It's a pity really, as I have dry-ish skin that just monsters the longevity of the majority of fragrances I try and I'd hoped that this might have a bit more pep to it. The evidence so far is that it doesn't.

    1. I don't get bent out of shape over reformulations, but this worries me. I didn't know until now that they changed the formula in 2012, which means I haven't smelled it yet. One of the key reasons Giorgio is so good is BECAUSE of its brutal sillage. I can't imagine enjoying this as much as a skin scent.

      How can I tell if I'm buying this new version? Does the bottle or box look different? I'd like to buy a small bottle to try it out.

    2. I've never owned the vintage, so I probably can't help. Batch numbers (?) on the bottom of the box are - GISF40002 (in type) then 8BA1 (stamped into the cardboard) 8BA1 also on the sticker on the bottom of the bottle.

      If you want to check the ingredients list against your own bottles - assuming you've got the boxes:

      Alcohol Denat., Water/Aqua/Eau, Parfum/Fragrance, Propylene Glycol, BHT, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Amyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate, Butylphenyl, Methylpropional, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Evernia Prunastri (Oakmoss) Extract, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Isoeugenol, Limonene, Linalool, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Blue 1 (CI-42090), Red 4 (CI-14700), Yellow 5 (CI- 19140).

      Of course it may be that any changes are due to amounts rather than the ingredients used, so this may not help.

    3. As I say, the things that makes me worried is the fact that other people are apparently not smelling it much on me. My skin's bad, but it's not *that* bad. I'm assuming that I should not ba able to spray one on the back of each hand, two on the chest, one on the neck and one on my jumper and have people get maybe a 1-foot radius off it and no complaints.

    4. IMHO, it's not even a skin scent now; it's a total disaster. Regards to Shamu and TopCat.

  8. That's a mighty fall from grace for Chanel's Pour Monsieur and Equipage, Shamu. Your reviews in BN consistently put these two at the top of your all-time favourites and yet, now they can't make your top 25? I'd like to hear about this amazing tumble down the perfume mountain.

  9. That's a mighty fall from grace for Chanel's Pour Monsieur and Equipage, Shamu. Your reviews in BN consistently put these two at the top of your all-time favourites and yet, now they can't make your top 25? I'd like to hear about this amazing tumble down the perfume mountain.

  10. The one problem I have with Aramis is that it isn't called 'Portos'! ;-)

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