‘L’HOMME BANAL’………. L’HOMME IDÉAL EDP by GUERLAIN (2015) + PATOU POUR HOMME by JEAN PATOU (1980)

It is sometimes interesting to compare perfumes from different eras that have been popular in their day. To see where we are. What has changed. The colognes and aftershaves and perfumes and fragrances that men wore and wear; the tropes that they conjure. Unlike in most other areas of human history, when it comes to scent, for once, the male of the species often gets the hard end of the stick – an equivalent pour homme version made after the fact. Everyone perfume lover remembers, or at least knows the name of the chalky melancholy violet that is Le Dix. But few – except the absolute diehards – are familiar with Balenciaga for men.

The house of Jean Patou has an unreachability and ultrastatus in my mind, principally because the boxed extrait of 1000 is one of the most precious and exquisite perfume purchases you could ever make. Every step of opening the suitcase clasped box (taken out of the outer covering case, not seen here) to the reveal of the velvet tucked bottle inside, with its beautiful jade green/ red juxtaposition of bottle and stopper, to the wire cutting of the sealed chamber – like entering a forbidden bank vault; to the extraordinary oddness of the contents – is a moment of extreme pleasure. Likewise with Moment Suprēme or Joy – there is a sheening aloofness, a lofty sense of removed entitlement with Patou perfumes that gives them a certain luxurious, intrinsic value.

Thus, you will see that I was unable to resist, coming across it out of the blue yesterday in a typical Japanese ‘recycle’ shop at lunch time (where do these things come from? Who has been hiding these unwanted, unopened perfumes for decades and decades in an unwanted drawer in an house or apartment somewhere and then suddenly decides to sell it off for less than ten pounds sterling? ) – a pristine, full, boxed bottle of Patou Pour Homme, a perfume I knew absolutely nothing about, and had never smelled.

My heart leapt. I have had a pretty rough and intense couple of days for various reasons, plus my lesson was being observed later on by someone in the evening. Having found this, though – knowing that when I got home, finally, in the evening, I could open it and smell it, that it was concealed in my work bag at the back gave me an intense feeling of inner delight, as though I had somehow stolen something precious, and nobody knew my secret. I purposely didn’t look up the notes, but instead let my mind wander.

I know too well first hand from living as a teenager yearning for the other side, the monotonous restrictions of ‘men’s perfumery’, though from just looking at and holding the box in my hand I couldn’t quite work out what year it would have been released – probably I would have said seventies rather than eighties – but I didn’t want to do any research, nor, as I often do, rush to some park after work and then let it smash to the ground. This time, I exercised enough self-restraint to actually wait until I got home; cycling back from the station, not letting myself get anywhere near it (will power is truly not one of my strong points).

What would it be like?

There was something talismanic and unnameable about not just finding a vintage perfume to make my heart leap, but one that was a complete mystery. I sensed it would probably not be a light citrus chypre like my beloved Chanel Pour Monsieur; the design of the box suggested something warmer, more aromatic. Tobacco, perhaps. Could it be spiced and fascinating like Hermès Equipage? Or could it even be an untethered beast like the same house’s Bel Ami? Might it be dark and patchouli coniferous, like the wonderful Capucci Pour Homme with its heartrending final warmth on skin, or sweaty and pituitary like Christian Dior Jules? A dark, compressed macho perfume I am sometimes in the mood for; sometimes I wear and enjoy them – Azzaro Pour Homme; Givenchy Gentleman; Ungaro. Would the Patou step outside the box and have some (to me at least) as yet unknown quality to open up the vistas of masculine perfumery and experience another genus ; a new stratification?

It would not.

I am a very reactive, decisive, person, and I usually know immediately what I think of a perfume. Naturally for fairness I wait, and experience the creation in all its stages – and we all know that surprises are very often in store if you wait long enough – and as predicted, it being Patou, I knew that it was going to be high quality and well made, but to me I just sighed with a great disappointment as I realised it was just one of those. The lines and lines of similar perfumes lined up at the chemists’ and supermarkets of my youth. So boring. A scent type I have smelled a million times before – any aftershave from the era; the dusting old bottles in my maternal grandfather’s bathroom that he never touched; a generic, leather aromatic fougère with all the ingredients you would expect – grandly complex – and yet dull as dishwater. And dare I say it, banal. If I am going to go for an aromatic, I prefer the weird 80’s overload of Rochas Macassar, or the hard-bearded natural elegance of Rochas Pour Monsieur; the green exuberance of the soapily bizarre and magnificently complex Krizia Uomo; if a simple, manly leather, then my bottle of Ralph Lauren Chaps – warm, supple, loving as talcum, will do very nicely, splashed under my pyjamas at night,thank you.

To me, this is simply uninteresting. Yes, it has some warm, oriental facets, and undoubtedly would suit some people beautifully, some Mills & Boon perfection, a hunk – a douchebag, (but I would rather wear Aramis – I love the pissy tang of that one on occasion, or Kouros, one of my younger self’s true loves) ; this instead just reminds of another rare dullard I have in my collection, Carven Pour Homme…..just too….. controlled; lacklustre; a ‘man’. Stroking his chin. Being manly. And ‘game’. And yet on Fragrantica, a place that every perfume nut, myself of course included, goes to immediately for confirmation and affirmation of his or her views, or to gasp at the gaps in perception between your own, and that of the other contributors/maniacs/raving lunatics’, to my great unsurprise, this perfume, perhaps, admittedly, a sina qua non of its unflinchingly standard type, is absolutely lauded to high heaven. One of the best perfumes ever made. The best masculine ever produced. People crying out for it to be made again (as if ! This kind of smell is so outdated) – so I am very intrigued, if you happen to know or own or remember this gem yourself, what I am potentially missing here. I haven’t worn it throughout the night; just smelled it (and yawned) for a couple of hours on the back of my hand. The juice is most definitely in order, not turned – the whole thing is immaculate – the good news for me being though that on eBay, 5ml miniatures of this go for a 100 dollars, and I could get at least 400-500 if I ever decide I feel like selling the bottle.

Speaking of crowd-pleasers and the fact that my tastes do often go against the grain, particularly in cinema, where many a 95% popular and critical hit on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes leaves both D and myself stone cold, not deliberately or perversely for the sake of it to be different, because that would be extremely boring behaviour, but just because it strikes us as slightly tedious or over earnest or just too obviously eager to win a prestigious award and thus takes no real chances and does not truly stimulate us in anyway whatsoever. We dutifully sit through these productions, stoney eyed and feeling nothing inside, then say ‘right, shall we go upstairs?’

In truth I often feel the same way about music, books, restaurants, and most definitely perfume; I guess my tastes are my own. And I am genuinely pleased for Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk

– perfumers at Guerlain – that their L’Homme Idéal series, which, like the super successful La Petite Robe Noire collection pour femme, is based on a cherry almond-tonka-vanilla soft contemporary ambered fruitchouli gourmand type of accord that everybody seems to like except me (and you), that this selection of flankers garners such fanatical praise on perfume websites and at the shelves of Sephora across the world, as it means that the coffers of the worshipful maison on the Champs Elysées will hopefully be overflowing with revenue, meaning (in an ideal world) that Guerlain will be able to maintain the quality of the classics, and continue to invest in producing interesting perfumes like some of those in the Art Et Matière and Aqua Allegoria ranges ,as well as on occasion disinterring lost wonders from the archives (or the tomb) and Lazarus-ing them back to life for our delectation.

As a Guerlain fanboy, and a person who likes to just sit and gaze at his perfume collection like King Knut on the seashore, I therefore semi-considered picking up the edp of L’Homme Ideal the other day at Opal (one of the best recycle shops in Yokohama on occasion, if you are willing to stalk it enough( and – gratifyingly – one of the only places I have ever been to that lets you actually smell things in advance of forking out your hard earned cash ; you can spray the perfumes on freely). This fortunately prevented me from buying a scent by Nobile 1942 which I thought seemed kind of horny in a Gucci Nobile kind of way, at first, but which became, yes – banal, on Duncan’s hand later on, which certainly saved me money, but there was also L’Homme Idéal there as well, which I had smelled and dismissed in the past already at some airport or other but decided to give a second chance (such an annoying name and thoroughly empty concept’ though – ‘the ideal man is a myth, but his perfume is a reality’, (what?) which is why in the advert, thousands of mindless brides are hysterically chasing a typically handsome and bankable groom down the streets like bloodhounds after a poor fox, or, as in the picture above – a flip-through-the-model-agency catalogue selection of hyper groomed ciphers all caressing and flirting with a cardboard poster – for me, the ‘campaign’, and the perfume itself, is as enjoyable as having my head filled up with cement).

L’Homme Idéal ticks all the boxes. Sweet. Rich. Warm. Cogent. Woody. Vanillic. Modern. And on my skin – though I could in a way appreciate its grandchild-of Paloma Picasso Minotaure and Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle’s sweet and musky lineage, and the fact that men are now allowed to move away from husky tobaccos and the stoic manliness of a bore like Patou Pour Homme and smell like cherries, it is still, for me, cloying, headache inducing – and contains no beauty. As we sat in a restaurant in Yokohama the other day after a wonderful time just aimlessly wandering around the backstreets, and I smelled this egregious smell on the back of my right hand, proffering it up for Duncan’s inspection (‘Oh God’, he says, it’s so…………sweet and unmoving and has no space to breathe inside it), I found that there was no choice but to go and scrub the gourmand encroachment right off my skin at the washbasin.

No space. No room to manoeuvre.

Just a smell.

Then again, I suppose, in some ways the judgement of this Guerlain was not entirely fair given the control circumstances.

Because look what I had just found in an old antique shop down the road, and which I was wearing all over my other hand, and which we were smelling rapturously: cooing over its inspired, and immaculate construction, the fact that it was so ambiguous and kept morphing and changing and was bloody delicate and incontrovertibly stylish and chic.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “‘L’HOMME BANAL’………. L’HOMME IDÉAL EDP by GUERLAIN (2015) + PATOU POUR HOMME by JEAN PATOU (1980)

  1. An interesting read and visuals. I get what you say as I have had many of the same reactions to movies and perfumes that others rave about, and then when I see the movie or smell the perfume, I wonder what all the fuss was about or if I missed something.

    • When probably we should just be trusting our own instincts, and rather than doubting our own taste, just realising that everyone is different. I have no doubt that some people will see this Patou Pour Homme and be rabid with envy.

  2. Robin

    Oh, god, this was just so exciting to read! You had me on the edge of my seat, as I’m sure you intended. What was this incredible find, the original, ORIGINAL Patou pour Homme, worth hundreds and hundreds and even over $1000 on eBay, going to reveal to your magnificent nose?

    Mediocrity? Seriously? The only thing I can think of — and I have to dash out right now, but just wanted to jot this down — is that it might be a Russian/German fake. Apparently they are around. “Lacklustre” can’t possibly describe the impression the original has left on so many rabid fans. I take it you didn’t pay $700 for it.

    • I don’t believe this is a fake. But now you have sown a seed of doubt in my mind!

      My image of fakes, though, is that they hardly smell of anything; but this is a proper perfume.

      I paid 16 dollars.

      • Robin

        Verrrry interesting. Then the second scenario I just posted might be the one. (I just have to believe that you’re not mad at me for seed-sowing!!!!!) What’s the spray like? Is it crimped properly, immovable, or . . .

      • Robin

        I’d say you broke even and then some, my friend.

    • Robin

      Back again. I’m sure, dear N., you know I wasn’t trying to rain on your Pour Homme parade. If anything, I’m holding out hope that you will run across a great bottle of it that exceeds your expectations and smells like the monumental scent people talk about.

      I was reading a bit more, and I see that your bottle is a vapomiseur rather than a vaporisateur, which means, as I understand it, that the top can be unscrewed or removed with a bit of force: it’s not crimped on. (I just checked my Moment Sûpreme. It says vapomiseur and although it doesn’t unscrew per se, it’s definitely not solidly on there; it looks like yours and moves around the glass neck completely with relative ease and feels as though it could be removed with some force.) If that’s the case, I’m speculating that there is a chance that the contents have been replaced (or a used, semi-empty bottle topped up with something else). Again, I’m wondering if it might be reasonable to at least consider that possibility to give the benefit of the doubt to the original Patou pour Homme. “Lackluster” just seems all wrong for it to be 100% the real thing; there are just too many erudite-sounding reviews that describe it as anything but. If I were a detective and you came to me presenting with this evidence, I definitely would be suspicious.

      All that aside, I loved reading this piece and related to everything you wrote. That 1000 bottle has got to be one of my favourite. The colour combo alone is beyond gorgeous, vaguely exotic, and the shape is so understated but perfectly balanced. I have one in the box as your photo where the bottle nestles in a kind of velour, and also one with a satin-lined interior. The beauty of it, too, is that it seems to have held up particularly well. I collect 1000 and have never run across a bad bottle.

      I know so well that exquisite (and too-rare these days) feeling of heading home with a capital-F Find. Nothing else like it, no better kind of anticipation and excitement. I think the last one for me might have been a half-ounce bottle of Private Collection pure perfume from the flea market, but I’m not sure. We didn’t have the annual summer-long flea market this year because of COVID and that put a spanner in the works.

      That Diorella! “Because look what I had just found in an old antique shop down the road, and which I was wearing all over my other hand, and which we were smelling rapturously: cooing over its inspired, and immaculate construction, the fact that it was so ambiguous and kept morphing and changing and was bloody delicate and incontrovertibly stylish and chic.” Oh, that description is just perfect, so right.

      And films rated highly on metacritic and rotten tomatoes not delivering. Definitely. I know my own impressions about movies often run counter to the popular vote, and I’m often surprised by my own reactions. Sometimes I’m sure I won’t like something and I do, or vice versa. Overall, I think I’m a pretty tough critic. Not by design. It’s crummy hunkering down to a DVD and being disappointed.

      I also share your view of l’Homme Ideal EdP. “L’Homme Idéal ticks all the boxes. Sweet. Rich. Warm. Cogent. Woody. Vanillic. Modern. And on my skin – though I could in a way appreciate its grandchild-of Paloma Picasso Minotaure and Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle’s sweet and musky lineage, and the fact that men are now allowed to move away from husky tobaccos and the stoic manliness of a bore like Patou Pour Homme and smell like cherries, it is still, for me, cloying, headache inducing – and contains no beauty. As we sat in a restaurant in Yokohama the other day after a wonderful time just aimlessly wandering around the backstreets, and I smelled this egregious smell on the back of my right hand, proffering it up for Duncan’s inspection (‘Oh God’, he says, it’s so…………sweet and unmoving and has no space to breathe inside it), I found that there was no choice but to go and scrub the gourmand encroachment right off my skin at the washbasin.

      No space. No room to manoeuvre.

      Just a smell.”

      So true. I’d bought it blind for Ric after reading some favourable reviews and finding it cheap online. To this day it sits there, exactly two sprays short of a full bottle.

      • Robin

        It’s even worse that La Petite Robe Noire, if that’s possible.

      • It’s gross.

        But if there is a young nephew or niece available, or just a neighbour’s kid, I reckon both of us could revise our opinion. I have that feeling about it.

        Just going off to get the Patou, which has been put away in the cupboard…

        HA!

        The top IS removable. I would not have noticed. So you are probably right – it could be any old contents for all I know.

  3. Tara C

    Those bottles of 1000 extrait and Diorella are gorgeous and enticing. As for the men’s fragrances, I agree they are tremendously boring and banal. The only good thing I can say is they are less of an assault on the senses than other current weapons of mass destruction such as Dior Sauvage

  4. Katy

    I like to think of this kind of review as The Emperor has no Clothes moment. To whit, giving the real lowdown on perfume Unicorns and Holy Grails or simply allowing for personal taste. Predetermined Unicorn or Holy Grail perfume does not really entertain the idea that my unicorns and holy grail perfumes are not the same as yours. Rarity, discontinuation, age, do not always equal better. I think Krizia as a house is happily flying under the radar on the auction sites, particularly the masculines, so more for us. I am always asking myself why no one wears Halston Z-14(100% better smelling than 99% of the perfumes I try)anymore or the amazingly lovely Davidoff Zino, a rosewood, tobacco, patchouli bomb. Get an older bottle with the script font and not block letters. There are so many wonderful vintage masculines to fixate on. And they are very inexpensive. Give me an Aramis! Really, any of them. And because one cannot really say it enough, price is not an accurate barometer of the joy one may take in a fragrance!

  5. Hah!
    This is the reason I rarely blind buy anything anymore. I’m not sure if I’ve become jaded or just defined in my taste but these Holy Grails of the online fragrance communities hardly ever live up to the hype. I recall when I finally tried Aventus, Creed’s supposed modern masterpiece for men. I wonderred what all the fuss was about as it smelled llike another boring & banal male freshie ???

  6. Robin

    Saw that you’d checked out that spray, Neil. Okay. So, room for hanky panky. I am glad. (Not for you, robbed of a potential icon, but thankful you didn’t spend much on it.) For some reason — reasons: I do revere Patou, revere the quality they put into the ingredients and the extraordinary talent of Jean Kerléo — it was really playing on me today, that Pour Homme would be forever besmirched* in the minds of your devoted fans. (*That word just came into my head and it’s a bit creaky with age but suits.) I think Patou have been so honourable all the way along (Proctor & Gamble is another story) and given us such unstinting beauty that I am relieved that their reputation may remain intact after all. It was almost like my own dear dad’s genius was being put into question, or someone had slagged a great old bottle of 1000. I felt totally baffled. And strongly protective. Crazy what the love of perfume can do to a gal.

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