THE DEEP, HAIRY ARMPIT OF LOVE : UNGARO POUR HOMME by UNGARO (1991)

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The first time I encountered it I was twenty and not quite ready. And neither was the public apparently, as Ungaro came and went very quickly, becoming just another discontinued, but highly sought after, cult scent. Yet even back then I knew. Something murky, and sweatily, dangerously seductive smouldered on that department store counter. It was almost too obviously manly, an attempt to combine a seventies barechested medallion aesthetic with the new decade. So macho.  So not of the times, yet also not quite like anything I had ever smelled before, with its dark-pitched, absinthe, underarm intensity. I remember shrinking back – but then returning – to this rich stew of scent that touched some primal sex nerve yet also seemed so hopelessly outdated when the world of CK-depilated sport-skinniness was just around the corner.

There was never anything androgynous – or slender for that matter – about Ungaro.

This is a middle-aged, well-built businessman, after a long day at work; his smell beneath his suit; coiled, taut – waiting to emerge. He has neglected to apply his deodorant, many hours earlier, (out of forgetfulness or fetish we don’t know), but the blend is emphatically not fresh:  it is a scent that harnesses a certain brute and rough, even dirty, masculinity.Yet it also fuses this frank eroticism with style and an attractive elegance in a manner only the French could master: we are not talking here about a clichéd, covertly aggressive chat-up line by Hugo Boss.

Essentially based on brooding patchouli; dark, bitter wormwood, and lavender, this trio of ingredients is freshened with greener notes of geranium, pine and bergamot, drying down to honey-tinged, musky animalics.  Rough, and very Italo-French in its womanizing, boozy, and measured self-confidence, it may seem to skirt with parody to the contemporary nose, but to me the perfume feels lovingly drawn by its creator, not just a throwaway commission, as it exhibits a sense of laid-back intelligence and humour beyond its core message of overt sexual prowess.

For me, Ungaro I is perhaps the ultimate masculine fougère.

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A Japanese dressmaker friend, Rumi, came to my house one evening. We drank red wine, watched Almodovar, had dinner, and then got to the perfume collection.

Once I had realized her tastes, I went in a patchouli direction (Givenchy Gentleman, Paloma Picasso, Magie Noire), all of which had her coiled like a cat with pleasure.

The pièce de resistance, however, was Ungaro Pour Homme, which I saved til last, but which she said was like sexual torture.

26 Comments

Filed under Fougère, Masculines

26 responses to “THE DEEP, HAIRY ARMPIT OF LOVE : UNGARO POUR HOMME by UNGARO (1991)

  1. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    This post seems to be popular with my readers from Finland.

    I thought I would re-share it….

  2. brie

    a deep dark lavender??? I like! I wonder if your L.A. store is the same one that I use (for vintage/discontinued in absolutely pristine condition!!!) I am going to explore right now….
    Popular with the Finnish,eh?

    • brie

      Aha! It is the same store!!! But sadly they are out of stock (as they are with the original Cristalle and no 19 which I purchased from this company and finished two years ago)

    • That place in Beverly Hills? HOW I long to return…..I only went to America because of David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive, which TURNED MY WORLD INSIDE OUT AND TOTALLY AND UTTERLY OBSESSED ME, and the day before I went to the actual Mulholland Drive, and reeacted the car crash, I found that perfumery…SHEER Fkn. HEAVEN

  3. Wow, this sounds pretty incredible. It makes me realize just how ignorant I am in the realm of men’s scents. It also makes me realize what a fantasy it would be to have a fully equipped perfumista lead me to his/her cabinet and choose scents for me. The whole experience must be swoon-worthy.
    I hope that sometime soon you’ll do a post (maybe a series of posts??) on dark, rich women’s scents, not so much the Witchy ones, since they already have a post of their own, but the ones that are easier to wear while still being unusual and very dark. Nobody could do it better. I think that to explore these scents well requires a certain dark animal quality in the reviewer, or at least a willingness to go there, so go for it.

    • I think this whole subject is absolutely fascinating. THE REVERSE. Women to men. But it is so rarely done. On women I have experienced Fahrenheit and Cacharel Pour Homme to interesting effect, and Terre D’Hermes, which Aiko, the girl in question, wore very well. But in general, what a dirth of interesting ANYTHING we smell on people, let alone intelligent, olfactively sensitively gender subversion! I wouldn’t know where to start. It IS such a great idea, and Givenchy Gentleman, one of my holy grails, I do think could be sublime on the right woman…

      Wasn’t there a blog somewhere that was devoted to this that I read……she gave up pretty quickly

    • by the way I used to think this really was incredible, and exactly as shocking and magnetic as I have described it, but in recent years I have come to see its slight limitations. The patchouli isn’t as deep as it could be, and SOMEWHERE under it all there is some kind of white musky thing levering everything that takes away some of the perfume’s hairy heft.

      At the same time, if you read other reviews on the internet you will see that I am not alone in my appreciation. And in my own pits, without deodorant, on the rare occasions I feel beastly and ‘male’, I have to say that it does kind of work like a mthfckr

  4. Lilybelle

    I’ve never tried it, but it sounds like one I would like. I loved Givenchy Gentleman and had my own bottle years ago. My fragrance tastes usually veer toward extreme feminine, but I am fascinated by these hairy chested masculines, too – particularly patchouli. I wonder why this post was especially popular with people in Finland? That’s interesting.

    • brie

      Honestly, I would be really excited for Neil to do a post on male fragrances worn by women….I in fact had a whole slew of them…Grey Flannel, Paul Sebastian for men, Carolina Herrera for men, Joop! for men, Jean Paul Gaultier classique le male, Givenchy Gentlemen, Vera Wang for men, Maroma Lavender Cedar for men…..(shall I go on?)…

      Pretty please…such a post would be fantastic!!!!

      • I wouldn’t know where to start! Ma cherie, it is up to you….

      • Lilybelle

        I love Grey Flannel! And I love Carolina Herrera for men, too. Did you like Givenchy Incensé? I bought that one for my grandfather for his birthday, years ago when he was still alive. I’m not sure it was his thing, but he dutifully wore it while I was visiting. Actually, I bought it because I liked it myself. 🙂

      • I LOVE LOVE Insense. I was recently eyeing a bottle of it at this very expensive vintage shop in Tokyo (about 100 pounds)….it was gorgeous. Just reading the name here is making me crave it…..

  5. Mr Ginza
    Honeyed animalics on a lavender base? You certainly have The Dandy’s dander up!
    Now how do I go about contacting you privately for that black book address…
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • I believe it is far too…base for you my dear sir, and I can’t even remember the exact address now, but I do know it is in Crouch End, just down Crouch End Broadway. I can ask my brother who lives near there the exact location, but if the dandy goes there his eyes might pop out of their sockets, for there, stacked up, are such delights as Ysatis vintage parfum, Ungaro I and the Marquis de Sade like civet-lavender of Ungaro II…the list goes on.

      For all other secrets to be passed to and forth,

      opoponax8@hotmail.com

      I thank you.

  6. Katy

    I would love this! My own perfume journey began with many manly frags. My very first full price perfume purchase was Givency Pi. I still wear it when I need a sweet nothing. If you love the baby powder aspect of Bvlgari Black, layer the two! I wear Habit Rouge, Yatagan, Encre Noir, Caron Pour Un Homme, vintage Le Male, Tabac, Halston Z-14, Davidoff Zino, Spicebomb–I won’t bore you anymore. I will see if I can procure a sample on this side of the pond.

    • I mean among perfumistas it is totally usual to just wear what you like, but it would be very interesting in real life to encounter more people like you.

      I have a deep deep loathing of the whole ‘macho’ smell on men. It not only bores me, it almost angers me somehow. But on women, certain of these scents suddenly become more interesting. Habit Rouge was always more feminine on me than Shalimar, I imagine the Caron would be splendid (Yatagan?! Wow…how does is smell on you…?!)

      I know that I have come to truly detest Terre D’Hermes, for example, much as I still think it is an excellent fragrance, because it just smells the same on everyone and is so nostril-penetrating despite its pretending to be demure. And yet on my friend Aiko, it acquired strange new husky depths that were really quite amazing.

      If you do get the Ungaro, let me know how you get on.

      • Katy

        I tried so to love Terre D’Hermes! I find it an olfactively overwhelming. That orange blossom will not desist and morph into something less blindingly bright! I am glad it does something nicer on Aiko. Yatagan. My dry, caraway laden, tree resin dream. We are in a Desert. In the cool shadows of a black tent, my love’s bright smile flashes in the dimness and when he leans in to kiss me, his mouth tastes of apricot and his hair smells of pine, herbs, smoke…….Yatagan.

      • Gorgeous!

        > Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2013 01:57:33 +0000
        > To: opoponax8@hotmail.com
        >

  7. nevetzedek

    this is the best thing i’ve ever read about this incredible fragrance. can’t get it out of my mind. bravo!

      • nevetzedek

        Incredible. I found it completely by chance. i must have read a review that spoke to me. It’s completely magical. I get the feeling that this combination of scents should not exist. I now am spending much of my time haunting ebay to ensure i am never without this dirty, gorgeous, primitive power….

      • The spray deodorant, which I got last year, is fabulous also. Such high quality patchouli and it lingers all day.

      • nevetzedek

        i never really use deoderant. i notice there’s an ungaro soap and an ungaro body gel that looks quite interesting…
        have you checked out II or III? I just got the red box Italy version of III. today was my first try. the start is weird — kind of chemical and off. then burnt rose. but the drydown after an hour or so is really lovely — mysterious, dark, classy.

      • Yes I like it. I have Ungaro II also: an animalic, Jicky-like lavender.

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