Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tsar


Discussions about Tsar often revolve around the differences between its various formulations.  I am aware of three.  I remember Tsar originally being a powerhouse fragrance - spicy, mossy, leathery and loud, in an 80's style.  In fact, I remember not liking it when I first tried wearing it back in the early 90's because I thought it was too strong, believe it or not.  That was before I knew anything about power scents.  Sometime later, Tsar's formula was changed, and it's been criticized by countless fans as being a weak, watered down version of Tsar, with none of the impact that Tsar was originally known for.  The bottle and packaging looked like this:

I have never smelled that version, but the most of the reviews seem to trash it.
 
Today's version of Tsar, pictured at the top, is a throwback to its original scent, albeit not as brash or loud as it used to be.  It's a very spicy green aromatic fougere, smelling sort of like a soapy, spicy Christmas tree.  I enjoy every stage of Tsar, with its strong blast of artemisia and coriander in the opening, to the green herbal and woody middle stage, to the final drydown that is mossy, leathery and green all at once.  The drydown is my favorite stage because it comes off as a dark green haze of scent - an amorphous, warm blend of evergreen, moss, wood and spicy notes.  I love the evergreen notes like fir and pine that keep popping up during its duration of the scent.  I also love Tsar's dryness, and complete lack of sweetness from start to finish.
 
Tsar is a manly, luxurious fragrance that amazingly sells for peanuts, and is great value due to its excellent longevity.  It's no longer a sillage monster, but it's still got the same powerhouse attitude and swagger it had when it was first released back in 1989.  This somewhat more toned down approach, however, gives Tsar a timeless quality, rather than being a scent that's stuck in an 80's time warp.
 
If Tsar isn't a classic, I don't know what is.
 
MY RATING:  9/10
 
Fragrance House:  Van Cleef & Arpels

12 comments:

  1. It's such a gorgeous fresh fougere. This review reminds me to get another bottle, because I loved wearing it. Quick question: for you, how does Tsar measure up to VC&A PH and Jazz by YSL?

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  2. I prefer VCA over Tsar, but I like Tsar better than Jazz. Van Cleef and Tsar are very similar, the big difference being that VCA is heavier, more complex, more bitter and a lot stronger than Tsar, but they both have very similar green, woody and mossy elements. Van Cleef is both loud and long lasting, as well as grim and austere, whereas Tsar is more discreet and has some brightness to it.

    Jazz is a great scent too, but it lacks the green mossy element that the other two have. I consider Jazz to be a woody spicy fougere, with strong sandalwood, cedar and spicy notes. There's nothing green about Jazz. Jazz has a more timeless style to it, whereas VCA (and Tsar to a much lesser extent) smells like a total 80's powerscent.

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  3. It sounds like you are referring to the all glass bottle as the one you haven't tried yet. I obtained a bottle of this version when I purchased a lot of several, and my thought at the time was to sell it on ebay to put towards the cost of the lot. In a sense, I was hoping it was awful, but it wasn't. I didn't really detect any major difference, though last time I wore original Tsar I was pleasantly surprised by the far drydown. I should do a side-by-side comparison one of these days. If I do I'll come back here and let you know my impressions.

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    1. Yes, I do mean the clear glass bottle with the plastic gold ribbing on the sides. Even though most reviews I've read of it are negative, when I read a review I pay more attention to the description of what it smells like, than whether or not the reviewer likes it. That version of Tsar sounds more transparent and even drier than the original or the current Tsar, and sounds like something I'd like.

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  4. Tsar is one of the few (easily available) classics which I haven't purchased. I've sampled it twice now (worn it for 1/2 day or so) and I just can't make my mind up whether I like it enough to buy a full bottle. I might get a 30ml bottle and maybe after a few wearings the magic will become apparent...!

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    1. It's worth the purchase. I'm assuming you'd end up buying the current version, which is great, but you'll need to spray on more than a typical powerhouse, since it's not strong, sillage-wise. I spray it on my neck, and get the most out of the scent that way.

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  5. Shamu, typically I'm in lockstep with you regarding reformulations but in this case I have to diverge a bit. I own both the vintage Tsar and the newer version you depict at the top of your review. I find them appreciably different and the vintage better by some margin. The family resemblance to VC&A is much clearer in the vintage version and as you state, the sillage (and longevity) is superior in the vintage. Some may actually prefer the new one, since I find it much less mossy and while dry, it's less dry than the original. It's still a strong fougere choice and Bryan brings up Jazz. The comparison to Jazz is stronger with the newer rendition (while different it's closer in type and smell than the vintage). I suspect that Derbyman, for instance, would not at all be on the fence if he were smelling the original.

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    1. Keep in mind that I'm going totally on my memory of the old Tsar juice, and it's been probably ten years since I last tried it. Therefore I'm not doubting what you say, and I do remember it being a powerhouse.

      I'd actually love to try that earlier reformulation with the clear bottle.

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  6. I own both YSL Jazz and a small 7ml splash bottle of Tsar. Unfortunately, I have never had the chance to smell the vintage of either; I have heard that reformulation has not been kind to either of the two. While I like both (they are similar in their current versions), I prefer Jazz...just my personal preference. Jazz has that 'sweaty-suede with lemons' base which I believe that Jazz inherited from YSL Pour Homme. To me Jazz is a tad warmer; that aforementioned base embraces like a cozy sweater on a cold night...kinda like the perfume equivalent of comfort food. Call it weird, but I like it.

    I have tried the Tsar splash mini many times ranging from warm Summer days/nights to Cooler Winter days/nights. Despite many splashes, I still have about half of that mini bottle. Therefore, I do recommend the mini to anyone who is not sure about Tsar. Despite this, I suspect that a spray would do more justice for this juice. If one had a small atomizer, perhaps the experience would be better. Gotta try that out soon!

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    1. I don't think I've ever tried the old version of Jazz, so what I have is the newest juice. I love it, but I rarely wear it. I can't say I smell any sweat note in there, though I find it VERY strong in YSL PH, like you said.

      I do remember when VC&A re-released Tsar in the current edition, there was a lot of fanfare over on basenotes.net, with a lot of people saying VC&A brought back the old soul of Tsar with this recent formula, even if it's not as strong.

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  7. Got me a mini 7ml today and tried it out.It's the vintage version and to me it comes close to VC&A and even Quorum.

    Thanks, shamu, for yet another great discovery I would otherwise have missed...

    I love it !

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    1. If you can find a big bottle of that old version, definitely snag it. Problem is going to be finding one at a reasonable price. Otherwise, I think you'll really like the current version too, and it's worth buying. Cheap price too.

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